This month we wanted to share some of our members’ experiences of volunteering at the Olympics and the ParaOlympics. Thanks so much to AFWJ member, B.N. for curating this post for us and sharing her experience and that of two other members.
The application process for volunteering in the Olympics started way back in 2018 for a 2020 Olympics and several members of AFWJ stepped up to participate as volunteers. As the Olympics finally approached one of the volunteers, J.T., reached out to the membership and found others had also volunteered. From this she formed a group of the volunteering members in order to offer encouragement and support to each other. The great thing about that was that this group of women got to meet for a delicious lunch to share and exchange our volunteering experiences. I think one of the benefits of being in AFWJ is being able to share an experience like this with women whose lives have similar circumstances, and in this case, with other women who shared the desire to help out at the Olympics.
Sometimes it is difficult to step up and get involved in events, in our communities, in our kids’ schools, and in many other ways, because of culture, language or even just our personal insecurities of going it alone. Being able to put an idea out to a community of women in a similar circumstance can be empowering. Of course, no one else might take you up on your idea but with a membership of over 450 women there is a very good chance you’ll find some other member who’s willing to give your idea a go.
Here are clips of the stories of a few of our members:
From B.N. :
I applied to volunteer in the Olympics some time in 2018. My thinking at the time was: “Wow! What an opportunity! How often in a lifetime would the Olympics happen in the city where someone lives?”, so I applied and I also applied for both my kids. One was not accepted and the other withdrew because the year delay meant the timing no longer worked for him.
As the Opening Ceremony drew closer I considered withdrawing myself as I had been assigned the role of Driver Supporter in the Olympic Village which meant I would be in a car with people not long arrived from overseas and there was no sign of a vaccine being provided. I was forced to consider what this opportunity meant to me in light of the negativity in the media and the possible risk for myself. I decided not to withdraw. I decided to be part of the solution, to try to make the experience of those visiting Japan for the Olympics just a little better if I could and so I showed up.
I had the privilege of driving Olympic Committee Members from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Mongolian committee members on the night they lost the gold in judo to Japan, and a very kind committee member from the Virgin Islands (US), among others. I even got to sit in the stand at an event I had applied for tickets for pre-Covid; what a treat that was! Then I got to meet with a bunch of AFWJ women, over a delicious lunch, to share and exchange the highlights and the lowlights.
The role I was assigned was not the role I had imagined when I signed up to volunteer but it was a lovely opportunity to meet people that I would normally never encounter. An opportunity to give back to Japan. An opportunity to be part of the Olympics! Yeah! That’s the one I’ll be sharing with my grandkids.
From J.T. :
I applied to volunteer two years ago, pre-pandemic and one of the three area of interest I selected at that time was Media Services. Last year I was given my official title/venue, Press Operations-Photo Team Member, Odaiba Marine Park. The events I helped with were: the Men’s and the Women’s Triathlon, Mixed Relay Triathlon, and the Men’s and the Women’s Marathon Swimming. I helped guide the photographers on where to be during the event.
One interesting thing that happened was that because of the lack of audience, our boss gave us permission to take photos (inconspicuously) when we had time. So, I was able to get some really close up photos since we were there on the ground with the athletes.
I’ve always loved the Olympics since I was young and this has been a dream come true. I’ll treasure this experience forever.
From R.T. :
My Olympic volunteer service is with Sports Information Centre (SIC). Our job is to handle all official documents to distribute them to the official team leaders who need them. We also handle training schedules, cold meal pack orders and have all the information about each sport. We also get some interesting requests and do our best get answers.
I wanted to be a volunteer because I wanted to give back to the country that has helped me and treated me well over the years! I thought I would be in medical so I was surprised to be in SIC.
The experience is great, however, there has been a few bumps in the beginning due to IOC firing the people who were suppose to train us but together as volunteers we learned our job and taught each other. It is fun to help the teams and when we get strange requests it is fun to solve them.
During my volunteer days I average about 20,000 steps so I have enjoyed the exercise. A few days were hot but I just drank more water.
To me it is an honor to volunteer and I wear the uniform proudly. It is really nice when a stranger comes up to you and says thank you for your service!
I am excited to continue on and help with the Para-Olympics too!