In this post I discuss how I became a volunteer for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil (the event that started my trip around South America), and share tips on how you can volunteer at large scale sporting events too.
Large scale sporting events often require lots of volunteers. Call outs for volunteers can be sent out as far as 2 years in advance, especially for events such as the Oympic and Paralympic Games. TIP: Applications are now open for Rio 2016.
I saw the FIFA 2014 volunteers call out in September 2013. At the time, all I had to do was complete a short online application form. Later, in December, I had a Skype interview with a man based in Rio. The interview was tougher than I had expected. It was like an interview for a paid job. TIP: Prepare answers to common interview questions and have lots of examples ready. And take the interview seriously! Just because you’re applying to volunteer doesn’t mean you can act casual. I know a person who applied to be a volunteer but was offered a paid positions in his interview.
A few weeks after my interview I had to do an English proficiency test and a short course on the history of FIFA.
FIFA sent me an offer in April 2014. I was over the moon. But with only 6 weeks until my first shift, I had a lot of planning to do in a very short amount of time!
Luckily, I had already started to make plans in case I got an offer. For example, I had spoken to my boss about taking time off work and to my landlord about vacating my room. Tip: Last minute offers are not uncommon. Think in advance about what preparations you need to make if you receive an offer.
I received training online and face-to-face. The online training was in English and the face-to-face training was in Portuguese and Spanish. Unfortunately, I don’t understand Portuguese or Spanish, but luckily everything I needed to know was covered in the online training. Also, whenever I had a question I could speak to my Team Leaders who spoke English.
Uniform collection was lots of fun. People cheered as the first volunteer uniform was handed out. I was stood in line frantically trying to convert UK sizes into Brazilian, however, magically they already had my measurements and everything fit me perfectly. I guess I must have completed a form at the beginning of the application process.
Volunteers Fun Day
Before any volunteering took place a Volunteers Fun Day was had. At the fun day volunteers received training, played games, toured the stadium and most importantly had the opportunity to meet other volunteers and the staff whose job it was to manage the volunteers.
I was based in the Accreditation Centre where security badges were issued. There were 4 jobs within the Accreditation Centre, and thankfully fluent Portuguese wasn’t necessary for any of them! Volunteers were allowed to try each job. My favourites were badge making and working in Problem Resolution. Surprisingly, and why I was needed, the computer system was in English. This was a huge benefit to me. Tip: Apply for a role that suits your interests. You want to enjoy your time volunteering after all, and if the role will teach you new skills and give you experience, all the better!
I arrived in Brazil just in time for my first shift, however, unfortunately the building I was meant to work in wasn’t ready, so I had to wait two weeks before I could start. Initially I was frustrated, I could have stayed in England, but the extra time meant I could spend two weeks being a tourist, which was fantastic. Tip: Be flexible and look for the positives. The logistics of organising large scale events means things may not run to schedule/smoothly.
Another challenge was my lack of Portuguese. Luckily, I picked up the basics fast and lots of people spoke English. I only got frustrated once when I couldn’t articulate to my Team Leader that I wanted my lunch at the same time as a friend (not a big deal). Tip: Learn basic phrases before you arrive/as soon as you arrive at your volunteering destination.
- Made lots of new friends.
- Won a ticket to watch Cameroon vs Croatia.
- Incredible Volunteer Management team who looked after us so well.
- Incredible Volunteer’s Centre with top notch facilities including video games, table football, ping pong and a yummy canteen.
- Discovering what an amazing city Manaus is.
Final Tip: Don’t be nervous/worry!
I know it can seem scary. An interview, an audition, a test, a group training session with total strangers, but it’s 100 per cent worth it and you will survive! Everyone is in the same boat, and if anyone seems super confident, their just hiding their nerves or have done it before (it’s addictive)! Also, the organisers want your help A LOT! They will make the process as easy and, often, as fun as possible. I remember my first audition for the London Olympic/Paralympic Games. I enter feeling super nervous and left dying for a place. The audition was amazing. It consisted of dancing with 200 other people to Beyoncé on a Friday night ‐ just like a normal Friday night! The staff were so friendly it blew me away. I knew I had to be involved when I caught myself smiling on the tube home. I NEVER smile on the tube. NEVER. So I knew I had found something special.
Good luck with your applications!