Volunteering has been an important value in my life since 2011, when I met the Science Heroes Association and FIRST. I do believe in “contributing to community” in any forum and since then I try to support organizations continuously. I have to admit that my company IBM’s position in supporting its employees for volunteering is also a significant factor.
I heard about Abu Dhabi Special Olympics in October 2018 with an email from our HR Manager:
IBM will be supporting the Special Olympics World Games taking place across Abu Dhabi from March 12 to 21, 2019.
Please read my blog to find out how you can be a part of this noble cause through volunteering……
Of course I didn’t miss this opportunity. On top of volunteering, I was going to be part of an Olympic!! I remembered my childhood, sitting in front of the TV with my mom and sis and watching various sports, a great deal of athletes from all around the world. My favorite was ice skating 🙂
I applied to be a volunteer, and selected tennis as a sport that I want to support, having no idea what I would be doing.. I started to receive some emails about the next steps, newsletters, videos to keep us excited..
First we were asked to complete a virtual education that will highlight the things that we need to be careful when dealing with people who have special needs. At this education, I learned about “people of determination” term. In every page, email I used to see “meet the determined” is written everywhere. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has developed this term. In 2017, he said that people with disabilities will be called “people of determination” from now on. “Disability is in fact the inability to make progress and achievements. The achievements that people of determination have made in various spheres over the past years are proof that determination and strong will can do the impossible and encourage people to counter challenges and difficult circumstances while firmly achieving their goals.” (for reference). It was such an accurate definition…
The first volunteer gathering organization has happened in February. It was very well organized to unite thousands of people with activities, and common missions.
Then we were called to go and collect our badges and t-shirts. Again it was organized quite neat.
2-3 weeks to the Special Olympics we were invited to the venues we were going to work. In Special Olympics, there were 24 different sports and multiple venues. Mine was Zayed Sports City venue cause I have been assigned to the tennis athlete services role. We have been thought about our roles briefly and walked around the venue, to get to know the area more..
And that’s it. We were ready to go!!!
The first day, I was 10 mins late to the first meeting, and in the main building, I saw a group of people with blue t-shirts and ran to that room. They assigned me to a group, after few mins, they made me the supervisor of that team !!! I had no idea what I was going to do.. Then we started our way to the tennis courts and at that time I learned that this group was for spectators, not my original position.. Still, it does not make any difference, I was there to support, so we worked on a plan with my team, everybody went to their places and luckily the real supervisor came and I handed over 😀 Meanwhile I saw my supervisor around, and when I mentioned about the situation, they asked me to join back to them cause they were short of volunteers.. So I jumped there :)) It was fun.. We stated to escort the athletes to the courts. In a Special Olympics, it is one of the important things to do; not like normal Olympics. The rest of the days I did the same job.. I had some opportunities to talk to some of the athletes.. Generally it was difficult to communicate in English. I even had a chance to talk in Italian (and it was so disappointing that I forgot most of the things..) or in French (which was terrible at all, I have to practice, practice and practice..)
It was one of the notable experience in my life. I was so honored to be part of this organization.. Below you can see a very small part of the Olympics trough my eyes. (unfortunately I could not join the opening ceremony..)
Note: The song that I used in the video is the official song for the Abu Dhabi Special Olympics 2019 that is performed by multiple people.. You can see more details in this link.