United Nations Volunteer (UNV) has selected International Paralympic Committee (IPC) volunteer Keon Richardson among the winners of the UNV Online Volunteering Award 2017 due to his 'extraordinary commitment' in raising the public profile of blind football.
The jury agreed Keon, together with the rest of the winners, sets an outstanding example of the impact citizens can have on peace and sustainable development through volunteering their skills and time over the Internet.
Keon Richardson said: “I am overwhelmed with joy to win the United Nations Online Volunteering Award. To be recognised on such a macro-level scale is great feeling and just adds additional fuel for me to continue widely promoting blind football.
“It has been a tremendous experience volunteering with IBSA and IPC in this special role. The staffs from both organisations have been extremely supportive with my personal development in providing me resourceful contacts and the opportunity to cover their sanctioned competitions.
“This all comes down to a team effort and we will continue to work hard to push awareness of blind football to even greater heights this year!”
Keon has passionately advocated for blind football on social media – with top engagement figures. As a trained athlete and football coach, Keon came with prior experience in disability football – including as disability officer and football coach – in London, Lusaka and Beijing.
His original online volunteering project was to write news articles on blind football. He interviewed athletes and coaches, updated profile pages of leading blind football athletes for the IPC, and posted regular updates on the Blind Football Facebook page run by IBSA.
But Keon went far beyond these tasks. He took the initiative to search for news on the development of blind football around the world. He reached out to the National Paralympic Committee of China to post updates on Chinese events on the IBSA Blind Football Facebook page - as well as from other underrepresented countries such as South Korea, Mali and Zimbabwe.
Prior to the African Blind Football Championships in Cape Verde, Keon created the IBSA African Blind Football Network on Facebook to connect more than 200 players, coaches and developers of the sport from across Africa. He also worked with IPC on creating a social media campaign to showcase the development of blind football in African countries.
Investing around 10 hours per week, Keon has volunteered well over 500 hours for the IPC.
“I feel the biggest achievement was an interview I posted regarding Dorien Cornelis becoming the first female player to compete at an IBSA Blind Football Regional Championship, reaching 12,000 people on Facebook and the tweet being liked by Romelu Lukaku, striker for Premier League club Manchester United and the Belgium national team, which indicated that the sport is gaining attention from public figures in mainstream media,” he says.
IPC’s Digital Senior Manager Natalia Dannenberg-Spreier, who coordinates IPC’s collaboration with UN Online Volunteers, is full of praise: “Keon is extremely committed and has repeatedly gone above and beyond to deliver great results. He shows initiative and brings his own ideas to the table. He's also great at networking within the blind football community to find great content.
“He doesn't just do what he's asked, he does a whole lot more! The IBSA Blind Football Facebook page ranks top for engagement on the project with 136k video views and 33,882 likes, comments and shares in the last year. This is a fantastic achievement for such a small sport.”
It is possible now for the public to vote for Keron as their favourite winner on the UNV website. https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en/blog/international-paralympic-committee-team