School district employee finds happiness in hills near Sochi during Games

School district employee finds happiness in hills near Sochi during Games

DELTA — Cheryl Crawford had no idea her foray into the world of Facebook would result in her travelling to the other side of the world, but she is happy it did.

Following the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Crawford joined Facebook to help connect with the people she met while volunteering at the Games. The mother of two has always enjoyed volunteering. From high school through to being a parent volunteer for her children’s many activities, she has always liked to use her spare time to support community initiatives. She also enjoys sports, so volunteering for Vancouver 2010 was a natural fit.

"I worked in event services in the athletes’ village helping the athletes get around. It was a great experience," explained Crawford, who works as a facility-booking clerk with Delta School District.

She also met some wonderful people, and so she joined a Vancouver 2010 volunteer group on the popular social networking website. It was in this group that people were talking about volunteering for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. The Sochi organizing committee was looking for approximately 25,000 volunteers, so Crawford figured there was no harm in applying to volunteer.

"The entire application process was quite long, with lots of waiting in-between steps," she recalled. "First I applied online and then waited for a response. Then I did a Skype interview and waited for a response. Then, finally, I received the confirmation email that I had been accepted as a volunteer. The whole process took months."

Her acceptance offer came in August 2013, and she quickly started organizing to take a month off work to travel to Sochi. Crawford has always loved travelling, but while her children were young this usually meant local travel throughout Canada. With her children now grown, this would be her first time travelling overseas.

"It was a bit nerve-racking trying to figure out what I needed to bring with me," she remembered. "So I did lots of research and made sure to plan and budget accordingly. Thankfully, accommodations and food were covered by the Olympics – this really helped make the trip possible for me."

After months of preparation, Crawford left from the Vancouver airport on Feb. 2, 2014 and arrived in Russia two days later. Of the approximately 25,000 volunteers for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, 1,800 were international, with about 175 of these being from Canada.

"All of the international volunteers were great – they were such quality individuals," Crawford said. "The local security and police were also really great and really friendly to work with."

Crawford was housed in a dormitorytype building and shared her apartment with six others; including herself, there were three Canadians, two Americans and two Russians in her apartment. Her accommodations were located about two to three hours from the Olympic site, where she was assigned to volunteer for the duration of the Games. Crawford was stationed at the Laura Cross-country Ski and Biathlon Centre, located in the mountains northeast of Sochi. She worked in customer service, directing spectator traffic and checking accreditations. During the two-and-a-half weeks of the Games, she worked all but four days.

In addition to the volunteering, Crawford was also able to attend a Cultural Olympiad traditional Russian dance performance, speed skating, pairs figure skating, curling and hockey. She also visited Canada Olympic House three times, including on the final day to watch the gold-medal hockey game and the closing ceremonies.

"Attending the pairs figure skating was really neat because the Russians won. The place just exploded and everyone was so excited," she said.

Overall, it was an exceptional experience for Crawford because it was so different from anywhere she had ever been and the people were so nice.

"I came to Sochi with no real expectations. I said to myself, ‘I am going to live for the next month in Russia and just experience it and go with the flow and enjoy it.’" And this is exactly what she did.

For more information about Crawford’s trip, visit her blog, Asthecrowflies2014.