WITC supported United Way Polska Day of Action in June 2016. Read a great review of the event by our member Tristan Sakura.
16 volunteers from my triathlon club, WITC, showed up at the Rehabilitation Center in Helenów, on a sunny Saturday morning with big smiles on their faces and contagious energy in their eyes. The biggest surprise? That we were all EARLY. This never happens. The day had finally come for the United Way Day of Action, which at one point, seemed that it might be cancelled. And we couldn't have been more excited.
United Way organizations around the world hold an annual Day of Action, coming up with a certain theme and encouraging volunteers to get involved, for yes, a day of action. The United Way Polska wanted to organize an "Olympics" day, including many outdoor sports activities. This was perfect for WITC (and Startline Foundation, WITC's social impact affiliate). Luckily I knew their boss, Maja, and got in touch to see how we could help.
The initial planning aimed for up to 60 participants and 15 activities, but misfortune struck, and a large fire badly damaged the United Way office. Needless to say, their funds and focus were temporarily redirected away from the Day of Action (by the way, if you would like to donate to help them rebuild the office, see information at the bottom of this post). I was even concerned that they might have to cancel the event completely, but apparently this was never an option for them. The show had to go on!
The event ended up being smaller than planned, but it still turned out to be a big success. There were about 25 participants, from various organizations; a program helping kids stay out of trouble in Praga, one that helps those with physical and mental disabilities with rehab and education, and a program that helps senior citizens stay active. It was a very diverse group of people, and one of the goals of United Way was to get them to integrate. There were many other volunteers, educators, friends and family as well, which was great to see. I was told that some of them came simply to help translate for the non-Polish speaking members of our club. One older lady was really sweet and sat by me in the opening ceremony just to explain that the organizer was welcoming everyone and saying thank you. I understood most of it, but it was so nice that she wanted to translate, I was happy to listen to her translation as well.
On the WITC side, the willingness to help with the event was overwhelming. My original aim was to get 10 people to organize a total of 5 activities, to have backups for each station with the idea that some might not be able to stay for the whole time. But at the first planning meeting after a Tuesday Night Run, more people showed up than I expected, and that number kept growing. In the end, we managed our 5 activities, plus an opening warm up game of Simon Says with Alan and his "Asystentka Zosieńka". In the game, Simon asked kids to hug themselves, scratch their heads, turn in circles and make animal sounds (though they're wrong because they think dogs say "hau hau"). The kids (and adults) where hilarious in their shrieking reactions every time Simon tricked them ("Simon nie mówi!"). There were nice activities organized by other volunteers as well (Ring Toss, Croquet, which they called "Cricket", an adorable mistake so nobody wanted to correct them, face painting and the painting of a gazebo next to the stage).
As the hot sun shined down on us, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face watching all of our wonderful volunteers enthusiastically leading the kids through various exercises, cheering and encouraging them loudly, high fiving, and passing out "tokens" for doing a great job. Alan, Aga and Tamaryn somehow convinced the kids to do planks and the sassy senior ladies to run around and do jumping jacks in their game of Freeze Tag. Julia and her boy toys stretched everyone out in a shaded corner. Alicja and Zosia were All-Star pitchers, letting the kids (and babcias) hit a few toy baseballs and run around the bases, while I chased after them (after the balls, not the babcias). I could hear Olgierd, Matic and Noemi lead loud cheers of encouragement in their relay race station, which transformed somehow into a basketball station, while Ken D, Ania and Marta were a huge hit (literally) with their water balloon toss.