Volunteering Wins Gold: Volume 4

The London 2012 Games may be over (boo!) but we still have Olympic and Paralympic volunteers waiting to tell their stories (yay!). We firmly believe in special treats for those who read our blogs, so here’s two stories for you today. First up we have Charlotte Leigh, a Games Maker and it would seem a volunteer dentist…

I was lucky enough to be one of 70,000 London 2012 Games Makers from 240,000 applicants. I have always loved the Olympics and remember getting so excited during Bejing 2008 that London was going to be next. I knew that London was going put on a great display and what better way to see it than to be involved!  I filled out the application form and applied to dentistry, childcare and Jewish faith work. I think when you write ‘I will hopefully be a dentist by June 2012’ I think that they place you as far away from the dental department as they can get! I was originally interviewed for ‘Spectator entry team member’ which means I would be one of the Gamesmakers with a foam hand on a megaphone. I was then assigned to the role of NOC assistant which means assisting an Olympic committee of a particular country with anything they need. As I progressed further through fourth and fifth year it was looking more likely that I would graduate and start DF1 in August 2012. I had to decline the job as an NOC assistant because once I started DF1 I couldn’t commit to all the shifts. A few days before my finals in March I received a phone call from London 2012 offering me a position as ‘Sports Info Team Member’ for Archery based at Lords Cricket Ground in St Johns Wood and the Olympic Village; this was despite not knowing anything about Archery! I had my role-specific training and venue training at Lords and was ready for my first shift. The atmosphere was absolutely amazing and as soon as the competition started everyone suddenly got a bit jealous of my volunteering and wanted their own piece of the action. As soon as the Team GB gold rush began the competitive atmosphere intensified and the fun and games really started.

Charlotte flies the flag for Israel.

I did most of my shifts at the Olympic Village in Stratford which is where the athletes lived during the competition; this is situated next door to the Olympic Park. During my shifts at the village I took the opportunity to wander around and try and spot as many athletes as possible! The archery desk was quite quiet but we were fortunate to be situated between the aquatics and athletics so we did see a few famous faces. Most teams sent their coaches and team managers to ask the questions rather than the athletes themselves. After one or days I thought I would go and investigate the Polyclinic and try and find the dental department. I met Dr Jason Niggli who gave me a tour and told me to come back and visit. Well, I did just that!I met quite a lot of athletes. I was working in the Olympic Village so saw the Team GB Welcome Ceremony (when each team was officially welcomed to the village. This included a parade of some of the athletes, performance by the National Youth Theatre, the raising of the country flag and the signing of the truce wall) which included Dame Kelly Holmes, Amir Khan, Jonathan Edwards, Duncan Goodhew, the Brazilian diving team, the Nigerian basketball team, archers, Puerto Rican athletes, Kazhasktani boxers, Chinese judo, Mo Farah and Nicola Adams. I also met Boris Johnson and Tessa Jowell.

I had a few shifts at Lords and was able to see some of the archery, particularly South Korea break the world record during the ranking round.  When my shifts finished in the afternoon I often visited the dental department to find out if there was any help they needed. The dental clinic had up to 6 dentists working at a time, 2 hygeinists and lab technicians. People came in with numerous problems ranging from a simple check-up to pain and trauma. There were field dentists situated at key competition venues such as the Riverbank Arena (hockey) who were instrumental when Kate Walsh suffered her injury. There was also a dental clinic at Weymouth for the athletes competing there.

During the games I mainly provided administrative support and helped other dentists by nursing. We saw athletes and team officials from countries from all over the world. We saw lots of team members from third world countries who visited the clinic for a check-up and then subsequent treatment, as they often do not have access to dental care in their own countries. Each patient was given a manual toothbrush, a sample of Oral B pro-expert and dental floss after their visit. Patients were able to return for continuing treatment but as the clinic became busier and the appointments less readily available this became harder.

One big aim of the dental department was to provide athletes competing in contact sports with an individual mouthguard made by a dentist. The dental team and the technicians made over 150 athletes their own  mouthguards which they used throughout the games. Research was also collected for a study by Professor Needleham from the Eastman about the athletes’ oral health.

The dentists were a mix of staff from Barts and The London and those who had volunteered. Everyone was prepared to do whatever was needed and many people like me came in on their days off just because we loved it so much. I would like to say a huge thank you to all the staff who made the games and success and allowed me to volunteer, in particular Dr Judith Jones, Dr Jason Niggli and Dr Wendy Turner.  

I have so many highlights from the Olympic Games. My first was watching Victoria Pendleton storm her way to Gold in the Olympic Village. The whole Polyclinic stopped and everyone was watching the race. You could hear the roar from the Velodrome and the atmosphere was electric. There are Olympic rings in the village which turned into a photo point – I stopped one day to take a picture and the Brazilian diving team asked me to take their picture under the rings. The next thing I knew I was taking a picture for the Korean team and spent the next hour taking pictures for everyone! Many athletes assumed it was my job to photograph them under the rings. I also recorded a message with the Nigerian basketball team for all their friends and family back home. I was also privileged enough to be invited onto The One Show on BBC1 where I had the opportunity to meet Boris Johnson, Nicola Adams and Mo Farah!

I loved every single second of the Olympics. Everyone was unbelivably friendly and even on the tube people were smiling and interacting, very rare for London! All the Games Makers gave it everything they had even on the 6am shifts and they were always there to pick you up. The atmosphere inside the village and all around Stratford was tangible and infectious. I didn’t have one tube journey from Edgware to Stratford where at least one person didn’t stop me and ask me questions about the games, what I was doing and if was enjoying it. Rio 2016 anyone?

Fantastic stuff Charlotte! Our second story comes from Joe and Jacqui Ross, a husband and wife volunteering team. They were Ambassadors at the Games…

You may have seen teams of people in distinctive light and dark pink uniforms in Central London and at airports throughout the summer helping visitors to London.  This was the London Ambassador initiative set up by Mayor Boris Johnson.  Both my husband Joe and I saw an advert in November 2010 for enthusiastic and knowledgeable people who loved London and were among 36,000 who volunteered.  We were lucky enough to be among the 8,000 people who were picked to become Ambassadors welcoming people to London.

We had 3 training days, learning about London and role playing at how to interact with tourists.

I was based at Liverpool Street Station and Joe was at Trafalgar Square, working 5 hour shifts for 5 days.  We worked in small teams helping people, giving suggestions of what to do in London and where to go as well as giving directions and handing out maps.  It was a lot of fun and it tested our knowledge of London.  We met some very interesting people and had to deal with all sorts of situations.  Joe’s team had to help with a lost child in Trafalgar Square.  We did get some odd questions.  Some Japanese tourists asked for The Beatles place so I directed them to Abbey Road.  I was also asked by some girls about the scary church in Whitechapel. Luckily I knew about Jack The Ripper and sent them to Botolph’s Without-Aldgate where Catherine Eddowes was murdered.

It was exhausting but very worthwhile.  Lots of people we spoke with were very positive and complimentary about ‘the people in pink’ and about the great atmosphere in London.

We are also involved in other volunteering: I volunteer as an IT Trainer at Resource (the Jewish Employment Advice Centre) and  Joe volunteers as a tour guide at the Science Museum in South Kensington.

And the reading doesn’t stop here, oh no! There’s another mini-blog to follow…

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Categories: Uncategorized

Author:Mike

Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.

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