Selecting volunteers for the 29th SEA Games and the Asean Para Games – both of which will be held in Kuala Lumpur in August and September, respectively – wasn’t a problem as the secretariat received an overwhelming number of applicants.

The KL2017 secretariat received some 50,000 applications for the 13,000 volunteer spots available – 9,000 for the SEA Games starting on Aug 19, and another 4,000 for the Asean Para Games which officially begins on Sept 17.

“People volunteer because they want to help. We have volunteers from all ages and all backgrounds. Many of our older volunteers have had experience volunteering at such events before and keep doing it because they want to serve the country again and again. The younger ones want the experience.

“They want to be part of a large, international event. They are excited to be able to see the Games, to be involved in its operations and meet the athletes. But at the end of it all, everyone enjoys themselves.

“After all, this isn’t a chance you can get all the time. The next time Malaysia will host the SEA Games is in 22 years. They may not be able to volunteer again … this is the chance of a lifetime. Well, for Jaswant, it’s the second chance of a lifetime,” says Mohd Saiful Nizam Mohd Anuar, KL2017 secretariat senior executive officer.

Anyone over 16 can be a volunteer as long as they are healthy and willing to work.

“There is a minimum age to volunteer but there is no maximum. Our oldest volunteer is 82 years old and he is fit and just as able as the younger ones,” says Mohd Saiful.

All volunteers, however, had to go through a background check by the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) to make sure that they do not have a criminal record.

“We had to submit the names of all 13,000 volunteers to PDRM for security clearance. Security is the biggest priority for KL2017. Everyone passed, thankfully, and so far, the group of volunteers is all very enthusiastic and they seem very dedicated.

“I am particularly impressed by our senior citizen volunteers who are really an inspiration to all of us. Many people think that this job is for youngsters but these seniors are proving that it’s never too late to serve the country and be a part of an event like this. They are the most enthusiastic of the lot,” he says.

kl2017

Veteran volunteer Jaswant Singh Inder Singh, 78, says that he will keep volunteering as long as he is fit enough to do so. Photo: The Star/Azman Ghani

Apart from screening by the police, the secretariat also goes through the applications of the volunteers to assign them jobs which are most suitable for them.

“Those with medical background will be assigned to the medical committee. Others may have experience in a particular sport and so they may be assigned to those sports. It’s important because they will be able to guide the other volunteers in the team should they need any assistance,” explains Saiful.

Volunteers are given a daily food allowance of RM50. They also get an official volunteer T-shirt, pants and cap and a certificate of participation as well as insurance coverage. Volunteers are generally expected to work for eight hours a day, although their schedules depend on the nature of their assigned jobs.

“Those who are in the liaison committee and have to welcome the delegations may have to work very early or very late, depending on the flight arrivals. Some games take place in the afternoon and finish late in the evening. So it really depends (on the situation).

“But each group has a designated leader and if they are unwell or need some help, they can approach their leader who will help them out,” says Mohd Saiful.

“We must not ask what our country can do for us. It’s what we can do for our country. Likewise, we should not go in expecting to get anything in return. We should volunteer, wanting to do our best. If you’re tired, others will be there to help you but when you are able, you have to give it your best. Make the 29th SEA Games a success. That is our role,” says veteran volunteer Jaswant Singh Inder Singh, 78.