This week we have two stories for you!First is Professor Margaret Harris, who is Professor Emeritus of Voluntary Organisation at Aston University and an Academic Adviser to the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) – so she know a thing or two about volunteering! Here Margaret describes her experiences as a London Ambassador…
As soon as we knew that London was to host the 2012 Olympic Games, I hoped to be selected as one of the 70,000 volunteers who were being sought by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) as ‘Games Makers’. But then I saw on the JVN website that the Mayor of London was seeking an additional 8,000 volunteers to be ‘London Ambassadors’; people who would welcome visitors to London at busy places such as stations and airports and signpost them to wherever they wanted to get to. This was right up my street as a Londoner who enjoys showing people the joys of the city.
Selected Ambassadors had three days of training. During the Games period I did six consecutive days of 5 hour shifts on my feet at Euston Station Plaza. Our team of 6 plus a manager varied in age, gender, religious and ethnic background. Together we presented the face of diverse London to those we greeted.
During the six days I met literally hundreds of people visiting London from abroad and from points north of London throughout the UK. It was easily the best volunteering experience of my life – such a privilege to be part of the buzz of excitement in London during the Games period, to be able to help people arriving in London, and to put a big smile on their faces as they realised that London is a welcoming and friendly city.
Our second story this week comes from Ivan Green. Although not a volunteer himself, Ivan pays tribute to the volunteers who helped take care of disabled visitors to the Games…
The Outstanding memory of my time at the Olympic Games in London 2012 was the enthusiasm of the Volunteers. We visited the Olympic Park, North Greenwich Arena (the O2 to you), Excel, Earls Court, Wembley Arena, and Eton Dorney. All the Volunteers, whatever age, accent, or colour, greeted the crowd at every Venue with happy, friendly guidance.
The normal indifferent Underground, Overground and DLR staff were also magically transformed into happy, informative and attentive carers. My wife has to be transported in a wheel chair, which meant that we had to book car park permits for all of the above venues. The Volunteers made the searching of our car, and the journey through the various car parks, a fun experience.
There were numerous instances of Volunteers going way beyond the call of duty to help us, but I will describe one instance. We were due to watch badminton at Wembley Arena, but we were late so I dropped my wife at Wembley Way, and parked my car outside a derelict building. I managed to find a Mobility Volunteer who brought us one of the LOCOG swish wheelchairs, and he insisting on pushing my wife to Wembley Arena, and then to our seats. He returned, as arranged, with the wheelchair after the session and escorted us to Wembley Way, whereupon a middle-aged lady took over and insisted on pushing through the dense crowd which had just emerged rom Wembley Stadium. The crowd were being held back by mounted police, waiting for Wembley Park station to clear. The Police obligingly allowed us through, as we were not going to the station. The Volunteer continued to push my wife in their wheelchair, through the dark streets, right up to our car. This lady had to take their wheelchair back to Wembley Arena, after which she could start her own one hour journey back to her home!
Volunteers always offered to take our tickets to the Ticket Resolution Office to change them from normal seating to the wheelchair platform, which was often the best view in the house. A doctor told me that some of his surgical team had taken two weeks annual leave to sit in the medical tent as Volunteers for the duration of the Games.
The Volunteers created such a wonderful friendly environment that every person in the huge crowd felt cared for. Everybody wanted to reciprocate by adopting the same approach to whoever they were in contact with. Why… oh why… did the Olympic Games have to end???
Look out for more stories of insiring volunteers in the coming weeks! And don’t forget to visit www.jvn.org.uk to get volunteering!