The HandsOn Network team and I got the chance to collaborate this past week with Special Olympics Mexico. We helped to recruit volunteers to assist with escorting the athletes to their dorms on the first day, setting up the registration tables, and assisting with opening and closing ceremonies. The athletes came in from the various states of Mexico to compete against each other. It was also a great opportunity for me to see where Mexican athletes train regularly for the Olympic Games. The facilities were massive and included an archery range, running tracks, indoor and outdoor basketball courts and a full gymnastics gym. The event lasted four days and I’ve included some photos of the awesome volunteer team and the hard-working athletes below.
I have to say my favorite moments of the week actually took place away from the Olympic center site when I was riding home on the metro. I had just finished my shift so I was wearing my neon green volunteer T-shirt when I was stopped by athletes who wanted to chat. In the first instance it was a teenage girl with Down syndrome (she raised her finger to her mouth when she told me her age, so I’ve been sworn to secrecy!). She was dressed in all pink – her jumpsuit to her t-shirt to her fingernails (she later told me how much she liked my shoes… they were pink of course). She was a member of the team from Mexico City and she was taking the metro home with her mom and another family from the games. When she saw my volunteer shirt, her eyes lit up and she gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek in the jam-packed metro and we continued to talk the rest of the way home. We had the same stop so I got off at the same time and her mom gave me a hug and a kiss goodbye. It was really meaningful for me to be able to chat with them because a lot of my work that week was behind the scenes and I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the athletes. She was so joyful and happy to meet me, the lowly volunteer, while all along she was the Olympic athlete! She made me feel like a million bucks.
The next day I was on a completely different metro and a different metro stop when a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was a a volunteer. When I said yes, he opened his gym bag to show off his Olympic medals! He was so sweet and he was so proud to show them off. It is amazing how small the world can feel, especially in a place like Mexico City with over 8.8 million people, when strangers start communicating over shared connections. I was so fortunate to be a part of this extraordinary event.