Roar­ing to go

Kuala Lumpur 2017 vol­un­teers will be go­ing all out to en­sure the SEA Games runs smoothly.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By S. INDRAMALAR star2@thes­

BE on time, never com­plain, don’t ex­pect any­thing in re­turn and al­ways wear a smile.

This is 78-year-old Jaswant Singh In­der Singh’s ad­vice to his fel­low Kuala Lumpur 2017 vol­un­teers.

The re­tired Malaysian Rail­ways em­ployee is a veteran when it comes to vol­un­teer­ing – he was a vol­un­teer at the 2001 SEA Games (the last time Malaysia played host) and the 1998 Com­mon­wealth Games. He has also vol­un­teered eight times at the Iron­man 70.3 race in Langkawi.

So, of course he signed up to vol­un­teer at the 29th edi­tion of the SEA Games and is just wait­ing to find out what ex­actly his du­ties will be dur­ing the games.

“Vol­un­teer­ing is in my blood. I en­joy it and it is my con­tri­bu­tion to the na­tion. I will keep on vol­un­teer­ing for as long as I can,” says the spir­ited fa­ther of six and grand­fa­ther of nine.

Jaswant takes his “job” very se­ri­ously be­cause he knows, from ex­pe­ri­ence, how big a role vol­un­teers play in mak­ing sure the event runs smoothly.

“Our re­spon­si­bil­ity is great and ev­ery­one’s eyes will be on us. Ev­ery­one will also come to us when they face prob­lems. We have to be pro­fes­sional in dis­charg­ing our du­ties. We have to be pa­tient, po­lite and tact­ful when deal­ing with peo­ple whether they are spec­ta­tors, of­fi­cials or ath­letes.

“And, even if we are tired or an­noyed or up­set, we still have to smile be­cause it’ll af­fect the im­pres­sion the many for­eign­ers at the Games have of our coun­try. Th­ese are the qual­i­ties needed in a vol­un­teer and it’s a great re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause, re­ally, all eyes will be on us,” says Jaswant, draw­ing on his ex­pe­ri­ence of vol­un­teer­ing at sport­ing events.

KL 2017 sec­re­tariat se­nior ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Mohd Sai­ful Nizam Mohd Anuar couldn’t agree more.

Vol­un­teers, he stresses, are in­te­gral to mak­ing sure the Games runs smoothly even be­fore the event be­gins on Aug 19. They will be greet­ing for­eign ath­letes at the air­port and tak­ing part in pregame events. Vol­un­teers are also of­ten the first peo­ple spec­ta­tors meet at the Games, and the ones ev­ery­one goes to for help or in­for­ma­tion.

Their other key task is crowd con­trol, cer­tainly not an easy task in such a large event.

“They are truly the back­bone of the Games. Their role is cru­cial and it isn’t some­thing we take lightly, and we wel­come sea­soned vol­un­teers like Jaswant who is re­ally an in­spi­ra­tion to me,” says Mohd Sai­ful.

The sec­re­tariat has re­ceived some 50,000 ap­pli­ca­tions for the 13,000 vol­un­teer spots avail­able – 9,000 for the SEA Games start­ing on Aug 19, and an­other 4,000 for the Asean Para Games which of­fi­cially be­gins on Sept 17.

A won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity

First-time vol­un­teers Ab­dul Aziz Ah­mad, 24 and Kweh Ting En, 21, haven’t quite got­ten over be­ing cho­sen to be part of the 29th SEA Games.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited. I ap­plied for a spot af­ter my friend showed me an ad­ver­tise­ment on­line. This was some­time in March and I was re­ally hop­ing to be cho­sen. But it was only in May that I found out I was se­lected. I was so thrilled and called my friend im­me­di­ately. This is huge!

“To be part of an event this big on our home ground ... it is an op­por­tu­nity of a life­time,” says Ab­dul Aziz, a med­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory tech­ni­cian at the In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Re­search in Kuala Lumpur.

Based on his back­ground and pro­fes­sion, Ab­dul Aziz has al­ready been as­signed a role: he will be on the med­i­cal com­mit­tee and will as­sist in any med­i­cal-re­lated is­sues that crop up dur­ing the Games.

“I’m ex­cited but as the event draws nearer, I am start­ing to feel a lit­tle ner­vous too. Af­ter all, I can’t pre­dict what’s go­ing to hap­pen and I hope I will be able to cope with what­ever crops up,” he says.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, Aug 19 – the first day of the Games – is also Ab­dul Aziz’s birthday and he can’t think of a bet­ter way to cel­e­brate it!

Kweh, a for­mer state run­ner and keen bad­minton player, was mo­ti­vated to vol­un­teer as it gives her the op­por­tu­nity to not only watch the sport­ing events but also meet na­tional and in­ter­na­tional ath­letes.

“I re­ally want to meet them. I’m a sports lover and I es­pe­cially love bad­minton and hope I get a chance to meet the play­ers. Of course, be­ing part of the SEA Games is like an op­por­tu­nity of a life­time. It will be a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, def­i­nitely,” says the ac­count­ing stu­dent.

Kweh was ini­tially as­signed to be a vol­un­teer for Judo but she has ap­pealed to the sec­re­tariat to re­as­sign her to a sport she is more in­ter­ested in: her first choice is, of course, bad­minton.

“They were very ac­com­mo­dat­ing and have agreed to con­sider my ap­peal and I’m wait­ing for news on my new as­sign­ment,” she says.

Per­haps the most ex­cited of them all is 17-year-old Alia Balqis

Anuar, who is among the youngest vol­un­teers. Although she has her Si­jil Pe­la­jaran Malaysia (SPM) ex­am­i­na­tion at the end of the year, Alia was adamant to be part of KL 2017.

“I can’t be­lieve I was cho­sen. And I can’t wait for the Games to begin. I like try­ing new things and get­ting cho­sen to do this .. the feel­ing is in­de­scrib­able. I’m re­ally ex­cited,” says Alia, whose par­ents were ini­tially con­cerned about the dis­rup­tion to her school at­ten­dance but are now sup­port­ive of her de­ci­sion to vol­un­teer. “They think the ex­pe­ri­ence will be good for me. But I have to study hard, of course.”

Aziz, Kweh and Alia have been at­tend­ing train­ing, which has opened their eyes to the scope of their roles and they are de­ter­mined not to dis­ap­point.

“We have learnt so much al­ready. We were taught how to re­spond to sit­u­a­tions that might oc­cur dur­ing the games. For ex­am­ple, if the crowd gets rowdy, we know how to han­dle it. Or if there is a med­i­cal emer­gency or one of the spec­ta­tors is ill and needs med­i­cal at­ten­tion, we know what to do. We were given many sit­u­a­tions like that and the train­ing was very prac­ti­cal and rel­e­vant, not only for the Games but even in our daily lives,” says Kweh.

All vol­un­teers have to go through a gen­eral train­ing pro­gramme where they are briefed on the his­tory of the Games, the coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Games and the sport­ing events tak­ing place. They were also briefed about the event venues and the ser­vices that would be avail­able. Af­ter the gen­eral train­ing, they would be as­signed to the dif­fer­ent com­mit­tees (med­i­cal sup­port, trans­porta­tion, ar­rival and de­par­ture of ath­letes) and sports events sched­uled for the Games – there are 11 com­mit­tees, and 38 sport­ing events. There will be 16 sport­ing events at the Asean Para Games.

“They un­der­went gen­eral train­ing which took place over a week­end. Af­ter the gen­eral train­ing, they will have to un­dergo spe­cific train­ing based on their as­signed roles,” ex­plains Mohd Sai­ful, adding that train­ing takes place at Univer­siti Ke­bangsaan Malaysia’s cam­pus in Bangi.

Photo: AZ­MAN GHANI/The Star

— Pho­tos: AZ­MAN GHANI/The Star

Vol­un­teers Jaswant, Kweh and Ab­dul Aziz are ea­ger for the SEA Games to start while se­nior ex­ec­u­tive of KL 2017 Mohd Sai­ful (sec­ond from left) is anx­ious for ev­ery­thing to go well.

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