Sydney’s powerful spirit

I’ve been debating what to post in the wake of Monday’s events. I’m sure you’re as sobered and shaken by the siege in Sydney’s city centre as I am, and as lost on how to respond. Eventeamwork is now in the process of reorganising the volunteer briefing for Sydney Festival, which had been scheduled for Monday as well as supporting our clients and their volunteers as we prepare for our summer events in the city. These are small things compared to what the hostages and their families, emergency services and everyone caught up in this ordeal went through, and we are all thankful for that as our hearts go out to those more directly affected.

There was, however, something incredible in the wake of this that caught my eye and that I wanted to share with you. It is a grassroots volunteering phenomenon that speaks volumes for the way the instinct to reach out and support others can really kick in during a crisis. Concerned about a racial and cultural backlash, Rachel Jacobs and Twitteruser @sirtessa started a campaign to volunteer to accompany Muslims on public transport. #illridewithyou is not just about sharing the hashtag (and it’s up to 17,000 at the time I’m writing this). All over town people are actually riding buses and trains with the Muslims of Sydney, keeping them safe and making them feel included and welcome and valued. For me, this shows the power of community volunteering and the way something small and quite easy to do – like ride a bus with someone – can make an enormous difference and help us reconnect with one another. It’s a heartening thought as we approach Christmas. I’d like to personally thank all those who step forward to help as volunteers at any time, but especially in this time of crisis. Our city is a better place for it, and we can all be grateful for that.

2013 Special Olympics – one week, 3500 volunteers

2013 Special Olympics

One of our biggest events last year was the Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games (SOAPG 2013), held in Newcastle in the first week of December.

The Games was one of the largest community events the Hunter region has ever seen, with 2500 athletes competing from 29 nations, 600 officials and an estimated 200,000 visitors – all adding up to an injection of more than $20 million for the local economy.

Eventeamwork was engaged by the Games team to run the volunteer program, which was sponsored by ClubsNSW. The team came up with the idea of ‘Volunteer Champions’, a program which invited local businesses to promote the games and the opportunity to volunteer.

It proved an excellent way to secure local engagement, and ClubsNSW drove a huge local campaign through over 100 clubs in the region to attract a group of 25 Volunteer Champions, including organisations that already had a strong commitment to community partnerships and that could tap into large member or volunteer bases. The Champions really got behind the Games, not only promoting the event but giving their employees time to participate.

One Champion, Hunter TAFE, won funding from State Training Services to fund a Certificate II in Tourism for up to 350 volunteers, and ClubsNSW ran the campaign to encourage volunteers to take the training.

This year, the outstanding support of ClubsNSW was acknowledged when they won the award for Outstanding Regional Initiative at the 2014 Clubs & Community Awards.
We at Eventeamwork are extremely proud to see this kind of recognition for the efforts of the local community – it was so inspiring to see so many local businesses and individuals jump on board to support the Special Olympics and make it such a successful event – not just for the region and its businesses, but for all the athletes, the spectators and the fantastic cohort of volunteers.

The ‘Volunteer Champions’ concept set a high standard for similar events and, according to Jon Chin, the Newcastle & Hunter Representative of ClubsNSW, the model is being used by organisers of other major events in the region and beyond.