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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Right Vibes from friendly army

Home away from home was heard of, but Kingston these days is offering friends in a foreign land, tells Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2007 17:23 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

The World Cup is not just about stitching together people of different nationalities, the tale of human connect runs deeper.

It is an event where a retired man and a school student share an identity — that of volunteers in a team of close to 4,000 across the islands who have given a friendly touch to proceedings in their red and yellow colours.

Hotels, stands, the media centre, press box and hospitality desks, they are everywhere, ready with a smile and almost going out of their way to make the World Cup a pleasant experience. This friendly army of a motley mix of people is also a welcome departure from the sight of policemen making life a nightmare whenever and wherever cricket happens in India.

"The feedback we are getting is overwhelming. It's fascinating to hear they are doing an awesome job," said Vilma McDonald, coordinator of volunteers in Kingston and Trelawny where the opening ceremony was held.

The process of finding personnel started last year. The response was unexpectedly high and the last date of receiving applications had to be extended to mid-September from August. Screening followed and about 1000 were chosen for the job in Jamaica.

It is a job that entails no pay though. People from many walks of life — employed, unemployed, retired, students — have shown no dearth of enthusiasm still. There were so many applicants that almost as many selected had to be left out in Jamaica alone.

"It's a question of Jamaica's pride. I thought let's go and do something," said Michael Alexander, a retired man posted at the media centre and one who combines seriousness with a smile in a manner you would not have thought was possible. "For me, it was a chance to be part of a spectacular spectator event," quipped Tannecia Patterson, a student.

McDonald said getting the numbers was not difficult. "Lots of people came forward, just normally offering their services. Many of them know nothing of cricket. It was the same in 2002 when the world junior athletic championship took place here and again in 2003 for the world netball championship featuring 24 countries. We had 1400 volunteers for the first one and 600 for the second."

The retired public servant reckoned selection was tougher. "Some opted out because of university exams while some didn't get leave. But we still had to evaluate how committed over a long period the rest would be, what kind of experience they had and how responsibly would they behave."

Just how well they are doing is not difficult to see. The moment one enters the Sabina Park area, he or she gets pampered by words like "how is the day", "are you comfortable", "what do you need". Home away from home was heard of, but Kingston these days is offering friends in a foreign land.

The VIBES — as is written on their shirts — are living up to that name: Volunteers, Intelligent, Bright, Enthusiastic and Smart. A combination of positive thoughts, they are buzzing around sending lively vibes, reminding one that everything in this world is not about untimely deaths.

First Published: Mar 21, 2007 01:38 IST