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Being part of 'the best games ever'

Jim McGonigle, Clydesider, Commonwealth Games 2014

Thinking about volunteering? My advice: just go for it!

The Place: The Caribbean

The Date: December 2012

The email: Notification that my applications to be a frontrunner and a member of the Protocol Team for Glasgow 2014 had been successful.

This was the start of my incredible volunteer journey which helped create “the best games ever”. Having been part of the team which interviewed over 20,000 potential Clydesiders, I was based, during the Games, at Parkhead (for the opening ceremony), Ibrox for the rugby 7s and Hampden for both the athletics and the closing ceremony. I made so many friends during that period and am still in touch with many of them. But what since, as all good things come to an end?

I attended the Presiding Officer’s reception at the Scottish Parliament as one of the Clydesider representatives. This was to thank all the participating organisations which had put Glasgow on the map during those incredible days from 23rd July till the 4th August. As a result of this, my fellow Clydesiders were approached by PC Mark Sutherland of Police Scotland to ask if any of us would be interested in helping to take forward a new youth scheme which had been set up by Police Scotland – the Police Scotland Youth Volunteers (PSYV). As a retired teacher, I had the time on my hands and was looking for something to replace the buzz of the previous 18 months. Following an interview in Glasgow, I joined the Glasgow PSYV, based in Maryhill , comprising 24 young people between the age of 15 and 17 and several adult volunteers. I am now deputy group coordinator for Greater Glasgow PSYV, comprising three groups of up to 72 young people aged between 13 and 18 and 12 adult volunteers.

This has been a tremendously rewarding experience, working with young people (many of whom come from vulnerable backgrounds) and watching their development. The youths volunteer at local events such as fun runs and help out at tea dances for senior citizens, thereby breaking down barriers between the generations. They also undertake an induction programme to learn more about the police and its operation in an effort to reduce animosity between young people and the police. Other activities have included making representation to the Scottish Government on proposed new powers for the police over stop and search of young people suspected of having alcohol and participating in workshops about how the Scottish Parliament is viewed by different sections of the community. But it’s not all work and no play. The youths have also helped out at the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo where thousands of visitors have seen these young people participate in anti-crime leafleting and helping those less able to get up Castlehill to their seats. (No mean feat pushing a wheel chair up over those cobbles!!)

Has volunteering for Glasgow 2014 changed my life? Definitely.

Would I encourage others to volunteer for the Glasgow 2018 European Championships? Most certainly. The long term benefits of volunteering are well known. The shared experience of participating in any event (big or small) is life affirming. I know that it has offered me an outlet in my retirement which I would not otherwise have and lets me contribute still to my community. Just go for it!