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Sport and volunteering – a key to social inclusion and more

Monday 17 April 2017

Have you ever thought: Why volunteering?

All you do is work and work for no money in return and in the end, you only get a “Good job, thanks for your invaluable time and commitment” and in some cases a certificate which could boost your CV when applying for a “real” job. So, why and what makes people continue to work voluntarily?

It is not often that I stop and think about what I am doing with my life… Okay pause, first of all, a short sum up of me: I am currently going to university studying full time, I sleep, I eat, I hang out with friends. I laugh, I feel confused, I feel happy and sometimes even sad, I exercise, I rest… And probably eat a little bit more (just as any other athlete hehe). What I am trying to say is, I am just like a normal person in that sense. But I have also decided to work voluntarily. A lot. To sum up and give you a brief overview, my current life when it comes to volunteering involves the following (only mentioning the four major and prioritised ones):
• I am a member of the European Athletics Youth Team
• I am working with events/games for the Floorball club IKSU in Umeå, Sweden
• I am a member of the Swedish Athletics Association Competitions Committee
• I am a member of the Swedish Athletics Association Youth Council

As the youngster I am, (yes, I still see myself as one despite being two months away from turning 22) I always want more. From my past volunteering experiences, I have always wanted more when they’ve ended because they were such good fun, and I never really allowed myself to stop and think what I had done or accomplished, and especially why I want to continue doing it.

Just over a month ago I came home from the European Youth Sports Forum in Malta which invited over 120 Young Leaders from all across Europe and from different sports. That forum had three main topics that were to be discussed through seminars and workshops. One of those topics was “Social Inclusion and Volunteering through Sport”, and somehow after that forum that made me stop for a while and think: What has volunteering given me? What is it that makes me continue working voluntarily, and why do I actually continue living only on the money I get from studying (yes for all those wondering, we do get paid to go to school in Sweden) and for example not work part-time on weekends and/or evenings?

The answer I got in my head was clearer than anything, and it took me on a journey full of memories. I started to think back on all the various experiences that I had gathered throughout the years. I started to think of how many places I had been to, how many new cities I had seen both in and outside of Sweden. I started to think of what my resume actually looks like when including all the things I have and are doing. However, the one thing that stood out the most was when I started to think of all the wonderful individuals that I have met and had the opportunity to share these memories and experiences with. The fact that you get to know people from literally all over the world, with all kinds of backgrounds and stories is fascinating, and foremost, very true. I want to think back to one of my very first major volunteering experiences, the 2013 Euro Indoors in Gothenburg. During those championships, I worked with hundreds of other unique volunteers – for hundreds of unique athletes, all with different stories and backgrounds, who had come together to create one big festive weekend.

What I want to come to with that is that volunteering and sport brings people together and creates opportunities for, for example, social inclusion. And even though that might be something we all already know, in a world where we continuously are fighting segregation and alienation etc, it might be good to stop and remind ourselves what sports and volunteering can do both separately and together. As an example, I can only fantasise about how an event like Gothia Cup/The World Youth Cup (football) have endless opportunities for just that… Making room both on but especially off the pitch for the importance of “Social Inclusion and Volunteering through Sport”.

So, this is just a brief part of my story, but it awakened a lot of thoughts within me. I hope you who read this find it interesting, and foremost feel encouraged to either start or continue volunteering. The memories, the people, and the experiences; it is worth all the hours you put in to it. But remember, it will never be anything else than what you make of it.

As I would say: Dare to volunteer! (But before starting a new mission, make sure you have the time to do it properly)

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