Volunteering

Not long ago (last week), I volunteered for a big show (a CSI, as we riders call them). The event promised to be unforgettable, and I really wanted to be part of it, in an effort to make it big straight from its first edition, and to associate with it as much as I could. (For a variety of reasons, I think this event belongs in the equestrian scene - not unlike the “Saut Hermes” in the Grand Palais in Paris.)

I applied to volunteer with a very serious and thorough application, mentioning my current job and company (Marketing Manager at Microsoft) since the announcement made it clear the selection process would be drastic. The recruitment process for volunteers took some time and I confirmed I was interested.

The show started on Friday, so I left work early on Thursday to attempt a briefing on how things were going to come along. Upon arriving there, my first thought was that this all looked amazing, though smaller (I initially thought the main ground was a training ground) and way further off the Eiffel Tower than I expected. Didn’t care so much about that though, and joined the rest of the volunteers.

There I was told each of us expected to volunteer 14 hours a day for three days in a row (7:30AM to 10PM, with half an hour to eat). We were given a cheap cotton shirt with a logo of the event and were required to wear navy blue bottoms that weren’t jeans and white sneakers (which I didn’t have so I needed a solution on the spot at that moment). None of the positions for volunteers allowed us to see the show. The jobs on the ground had been trusted to a school and the VIP hosting had been given to actual hires.

I still decided to go, I had taken a day off for that on the Friday and I wanted to commit to what I had said. This was the longest and most boring day ever. The first half of my day (first seven hours) were dedicated to giving on the go food to grooms and staff members (anyone wearing a certain bracelet color). We were looked down on by the staff who got easily angry at us for the smallest things. We were allowed to set some food on the side for ourselves (one sandwich or salad per person, nothing more) for our lunch break.

Needless to say, I soon decided I wouldn’t spend 42 hours of my week-end (yes, that is more than my theoretical work week) into this.

It was my first time volunteering and I hope the organization realizes they should treat people who give away their free time for them better, but more than that, I realize volunteering alwyas expects *some* kind of gratification: a great event, happy animals, personal gratification (goodies, being able to watch what you’re being part of). I guess it’s obvious to most, but really, the drive needs to be strong with you.