Five-time Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds has spoken to GiveMeSport Women about the launch of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games volunteering scheme.
Simmonds was a part of a group of athletes, including rugby sevens player Heather Fisher and boxer Galal Yafai, to take part in a volunteering initiative in the West Midlands. She surprised members of World Against Single Use Plastic – WASUP – as they donned high-vis jackets to pick litter along Walsall’s canals.
“It’s been an amazing day, being part of WASUP and to come and litter pick,” Simmonds enthused. “To have the opportunity of meeting the guys who dedicate their time to clean up the waterways in Cannock and everywhere like that, it’s amazing to see these volunteers in action and to be part of that.”
Birmingham 2022 organisers are aiming to find more than 13,000 volunteers for the Games. Applications open today to coincide with Volunteers’ Week. Roles include drivers, first raiders, meet and greeters, venue preppers, kit carriers and courtside assistants.
The volunteers – known as the “Commonwealth Collective” – will be a dedicated and dynamic group, which will act as the public face of Birmingham 2022. In total, the Commonwealth Collective will receive approximately 250,000 hours of training and complete one million hours of volunteer time.
The scheme is open to anyone who has the right to volunteer in the UK, but Simmonds particularly encouraged those in the West Midlands to apply. “It’s all about getting involved in the Commonwealth Games and giving back to the local community,” she explained.
Simmonds chose to volunteer with WASUP for that very reason. “I’m always very passionate about reducing plastic and litter picking and all things like that,” she said. “It’s also in Walsall, which is where my hometown is. My parents live in Aldridge, so it’s just got a bit of a place in my heart really.”
Although Simmonds has competed at three Paralympics during her career, she will be making a debut appearance at the Commonwealth Games next year. Up until now, the programme had not included the Para-swimming disciplines which Simmonds usually contests.
The 26-year-old has taken a hands-on approach to Birmingham 2022, joining the Board of Directors as an independent member. This has given her unprecedented insight into the organisation of a major sporting event.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Simmonds said. “It’s been so good to be a part of it – I’m on the Board, I’m on the Organising Committee. Normally I’m the athlete that just goes out, races and then doesn’t really think about it, but to see the whole lead up and be a part of the Birmingham community has been a real honour. We have all the plans going into the Games now and it’s going to be an amazing summer for Birmingham next year.”
With Birmingham set to welcome the Commonwealth Games in just over a year, the excitement is definitely ramping up.
Ellie was speaking at the launch of the volunteering applications for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. Apply now to volunteer and become part of the ‘Commonwealth Collective’ at https://www.birmingham2022.com/