Here’s to the volunteers

Durban City Hall

We’d like to give a shout out to the host city Volunteers of COP17 who have rounded out our experience of navigating this conference and downtown Durban with added cheer and comfort.  Amongst thousands of scurrying diplomats, activists, and bureaucrats, the volunteers remain enthusiastic, helpful, and calm. As Dani said, “they are actors too” and I think she’s right.

The host city volunteers are students, retirees, and local citizens who can be found just about everywhere. More than once, I’ve been pulled aside by a volunteer who read my confused face and just knew “that girl needs some help”….with finding specific meetings among countless conference rooms or procuring a translation head-set at the last minute. One volunteer actually took an empty coffee cup out of my hand once she saw that I was finished with it.

Here are a few anecdotes from other Yalies:

Ryan: They sang “for he’s a jolly good fellow” in Zulu to me and gave me an umbrella for my birthday.  Also the contrast between their good nature and smiles and well…everyone else is rather striking.

Mark: I want to tell you about Papi.  From what Amit tells me, Papi studies criminology. I’m sure he’s got a lot of important things to do and big ambitions to fulfill.  In the meantime, he has given up his time as one of many green-track-suit-wearing-always-smiling volunteers here at the COP.

Papi, like almost every volunteer I have met here, takes extreme pride in his work.  So, when we needed a place to go for dinner, Papi didn’t just tell us a place to go – he took us there.  Papi walked us down the block, into the shopping mall, and made sure we knew we had options.  When we decided on Nando’s, he asked if he should wait outside for us to finish.  Of course, we told Papi he didn’t have to wait.  But I wish I would have invited him to join.  The volunteers welcome us, orient us, and generally make us feel at home. We owe them a big thanks.

Amit captured some stellar high-kicks in this clip from the host city Welcoming Reception at Durban’s City Hall last week.

Volunteer serenade those waiting in line to enter the welcoming reception

Cheers to you volunteers!