"I phoned my mum and we both just cried – it sounds cheesy but we both knew what it meant – good and bad."
Like most of the volunteers at London 2012, I was completely honoured to have been chosen to be a Games Maker at the Paralympic Games. I applied at a time when the whole country was being typically British about how much of a success London would be and I did it because – and this will sound obvious – it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Even if it turned out to be an average Games, I knew I would still have the time of my life.
I arrived for my first morning as a Paralympic Family Assistant really excited about who I’d have in my car that day, and really nervous about having the lives of important people in my hands!
Never once did I imagine that less than a year later, I would be sat at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Headquarters in Bonn, having landed my dream job in the Movement.
My experience of the Games was utterly fantastic, aside from a few hiccups along the way.
I met people that in everyday life I would never have come across, from all over the world. They were all chatty, friendly and generally fantastically wonderful.
One evening one of my clients took me for dinner after a long shift. It was 9pm by the time we left the wheelchair fencing at the ExCel centre but he insisted on it. This was after he’d made sure that I had enough to eat and drink throughout the day by buying me lunch in between his back-back meetings.
This really struck me most of all - nobody I came across from the Paralympic Movement had any sense of their own self-importance. I had to constantly keep reminding my clients that I was there to assist them – they didn’t need to get the Tube or bus back to their hotel!
What was most noticeable however was the reaction of the public. I worked in London for a year when I finished university and, for a country girl, I found it to be a bit inhospitable at times. But during the Games, everyone was polite, helpful and welcoming. It was like they knew the world was watching them and they had to perform – just like the athletes.
When my two week stint was up I went through a genuine period of withdrawal, and it wasn’t just because I had to give up the keys to that nice BMW 5-Series I’d been cruising around in.
I decided there and then that the dream that I’d always had to work in sport categorically had to become a reality. Sport brings loads of different people together - athletes and fans alike - and I always wanted to make a difference. I started to apply for jobs in sport wherever and whenever they came up, but I never got call-backs and rarely even received a reply to say that my application was being considered. In total I must have applied for 10 jobs in a six month period – that doesn’t sound like a lot but in sport opportunities come up so rarely and employers always want experience. I just didn’t have it.
Of all the jobs that I applied for, the IPC position was the one that I thought I stood the least chance of getting. I was pleased to even have got an interview, but when I got through to the second and then the third stages of the interview process I dared to start to look into living in Germany – I was that convinced I didn’t stand a chance that I didn’t even consider the impact actually getting the job would have on my life!
When Craig Spence (now my boss) called me at work on that Monday morning, he told me that he was ringing to make all my dreams come true and I was completely speechless. He couldn’t have been more right. I phoned my mum and we both just cried – it sounds cheesy but we both knew what it meant – good and bad. I’m tearing up now just thinking about it!
Now I’m writing from the IPC offices in Bonn after nearly exactly four months of working here and my life is completely different. After meeting everybody, the Movement still has the same wonderful understated-ness that characterised my experience in London. People have really looked out for me.
After all is said and done, somebody took a chance with me and for that I am eternally grateful.
It could happen to you too!
Along with a lot of other people, London 2012 was the start of something big for me.