Thursday, 2 August 2012

Volunteering at the Kingston Olympic Torch Relay!

I’m not, never have been, and most probably never will be a sporty person. Largely, excitement about the London 2012 Olympics has passed me by: at a push, I could probably be persuaded to watch the men’s diving (ahem), but golf? Archery? Football? Don’t we get enough football coverage on the TV as it is, without adding in some extra Olympiad games? Bah humbug, I say.
Anna Smith carrying the Olympic Torch through Kingston.
Spot the volunteers in their yellow t-shirts! 
Or at least, I did say. The Olympic Torch Relay made me prick up my ears a little, because it wasn’t all about the sport. 8000 everyday heroes were plucked from relative obscurity to carry the torch from A to B, to recognise and celebrate the fantastic work they have done in their communities or the successes they’ve achieved. So when I saw that I could volunteer through KUSU VolunteeringGo Kingston Volunteering and help marshal the event in Kingston, I figured it could be my contribution to this international sporting celebration that would really mean something to me.

So off I toddled, at 7.30am on a Tuesday morning (painful), into Kingston Market Place to meet with other volunteers, students and local residents alike, to help man the crowds and watch brilliant people be commended for their work. I was posted by the Bentall Centre, which was Anna Smith’s leg of the relay.

Earlier this year, Anna got home from work to find a neighbour being attacked by two thugs. Anna went to her rescue, saved the neighbour, but suffered a violent attack herself. She was in intensive care for a week before an intensive operation to rebuild her shattered cheekbones, nose and jaws. Her confidence was crushed by the incident and she had to move home. However, she chose to take a positive approach to life, joking that not everyone gets a free face lift and continuing to be an inspirational mother to her two young children.

Whilst she still needs some more operations, she has worked hard to regain full fitness so that she can return to helping others though sports activities. Reflecting on her time in hospital, she has been determined to do more therapeutic work to support people in need and has now successfully gained NHS sponsorship for a part time Occupational Therapy degree to build on her expertise and extend her skills for the benefit of others.

Anna's passion for sporting activities, her incredible determination following this horrific incident and the fact that she has used her experience to positively benefit others meant she was nominated as an Olympic Torchbearer. As the crowd roared their approval when she jogged past, lit torch proudly in the air, I began to understand that the Olympics was about so much more than sports. It’s about bringing the community together, promoting healthy, happy lifestyles, offering opportunities and celebrating diversity and equality.

And really, those four things are what volunteering itself is all about. It’s great to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and getting involved with all kinds of events and opportunities to make life better for others, just like Anna Smith did. 2012 is definitely the year to open your eyes to something new – for me it’s men’s diving, and who knows, maybe yours could be volunteering with KUSU!

Check out the rest of my photos from the day here.

Lucy Williams
Vice President Student Life at KUSU

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