John Stewart, 69, shares his experience of volunteering at the Commonwealth Games and why he would encourage others to volunteer.
When I was young, men slightly older than me who had enjoyed or endured National Service would offer the advice “never volunteer”. Perhaps that stuck with me, because up until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I had never volunteered.
Because I was retired and widowed and looking for things to do, and not least because it was in Glasgow where I live, I decided to put my name forward. When I heard that 50,000 had done the same and 25,000 were to be interviewed for 15,000 places I assumed that being 69 would rule me out.
However I was called to interview in early 2013. The process was very slick at the Commonwealth offices in Glasgow. My passport was scanned, my picture taken and I responded to a standard set of questions. After that, I received a number of newsletters but heard nothing back so assumed that was that. Then in May of 2014, I found out I had been selected as a driver which had been my first choice. So I became a Clyde-sider.
I attended two training days in June at the place that was to be the transport depot. I was amazed to learn that there was to be over 1,100 cars available and 1,500 drivers, some of whom would be on shift and all of whom would be doing 10 hour shifts. My rota extended over sixteen days with two days off. At first that sounded a lot but they explained that during the ten hours would be broken up while we waited for clients that were attending meetings or events.
My role was to be what was called a T1 driver. This involved being assigned to a specific car and a specific client who would be part of what was called the Games Family. For the most part these were representatives of the Commonwealth Federations of the 71 countries competing. Before the Games started I had most of three days driving between the various locations in Glasgow where events were to be held until the routes were well known.
Clients were arriving at different times so I had some days at the beginning of the Games where I was a support driver, waiting for my clients to sign on. During that time I chauffeured for the Bahamas, Swaziland and Australia until my client from Guyana arrived. As well as driving there was time for me to chat to the other drivers at the depot and everyone had a story to tell. Many had volunteered at the Olympics in London and had travelled from many parts of England and stayed at their own expense, simply because they had enjoyed the experience so much. Meeting other drivers and sharing their experiences all added to the enjoyment.
Most of the driving was taking the clients from their hotel to a Games venue, moving between venues or to the Athlete’s Village. A massive bonus was that with my type of car pass I could park close to the venue and my personal pass allowed me into the events to watch from the back. I saw Rugby at Ibrox, Boxing, Netball and Gymnastics at the Scottish Conference Centre and the icing on the cake was three evenings watching Athletics at Hampden.
So what have I taken away from the experience? I found I could speak easily to complete strangers and I intend to keep that going. I now find I will engage people in conversation in queues and in cafes. During the games the uniform gave that licence but I realised people are often happy to chat. I found that I was still able to do a full 10 hours without getting weary and I am now avoiding daytime telly in favour of doing things. I golf twice week and my son and daughter have found lots of D.I.Y. to keep me amused!
I found volunteering gave me a great sense of worth. One of the Glasgow clients I had in the car works for a local hospice and invited me to get in touch about doing something for them so I did. I have a set of forms to fill in and hopefully they will find a role for me which may well involve driving or perhaps administration or IT which was my work pre-retirement. I would thoroughly recommend volunteering. Although there is a commitment, it is on your own terms and, as I have found, there is something for everyone – whatever
your age and capability.
To find out about volunteering opportunities in your area, visit: http://www.volunteerscotland.net/