52 weeks to better genealogy Week 46 – volunteering

Week 46: Assess your volunteer potential. The last two weeks’ challenges focused on volunteerism and local genealogy societies (which are also dependent on volunteers). Take a look at your skill set and determine what types of opportunities best suit you. Do you speak two languages? Maybe you can offer translation services. Do you only have free time after the kids are in bed? Perhaps an indexing project is best for you. Knowing your strengths can help shape your research process. If you take this challenge a step further and actually volunteer, give yourself a pat on the back. Bloggers are encouraged to assess and share their own skill sets, as well as any volunteer experiences they have.

LightbulbI can’t believe so many weeks have gone by since I last wrote about one of these tasks. This week’s topic is about volunteering for your local genealogy or family history society. What can you offer?

Volunteering in any capacity is rewarding. Often volunteers get more out of the experience than the people they are helping. A few years ago when I was training to be a counsellor I volunteered at the Wayside Chapel at Kings Cross as a Crisis Centre Counsellor. It was a very educational experience for me.

I spent my weekly shifts finding clothes and beds for a night for people who, for various reasons, weren’t able to find these things for themselves. I also answered phone calls on the Crisis Line from people who needed help in one way or another. Sometimes they just wanted to talk to someone who wouldn’t judge them. Sometimes they wanted to be told what to do, or what not to do. I was in dread of the suicide call but I never got one.

I usually wandered around the cafe every so often to make sure everyone was OK. Sometimes I’d give people a shake to make sure they were not suffering from too much heroine. I did have to call an ambulance once for someone who had done just that.

For people in these situations life is a struggle, one day at a time, and all we can do is help them get through that day, and listen to them when they want to talk. Occasionally we were able to help someone to get themselves out of the mess they were in and remember who they are and what they are capable of, and that is the best feeling of all!

I changed careers and here I am, a genealogist. I still wanted to volunteer somewhere, and make some sort of contribution to the world, and the Society of Australian Genealogists is where I chose to help out.

My training and experience is in IT and so when I saw a request for help installing CDs on the computers in the library I thought “I can do that’. That was in about 2006 or 2007.

Now, in 2010, I am still installing CDs on the network, on the server that I helped to set up. I am Convenor of the IT Committee, mostly because I was the last man standing. I have helped to set up an arrangement for third-party support for our computer networks, and even though I don’t always know what they are talking about, having not those networking skills, I know enough to know what we want. I have found a use for other skills, such as team leadership and organisation, and dealing with other organisations, in doing this work.

I also use my IT analysis and design skills on the Society’s website. I haven’t built it but I help decide what should be in it and what it should look like.

I am also on the Education Committee, initially as a result of starting The Master Genealogist (TMG) Sydney User Group in 2003 when I could see that if I didn’t volunteer to start the mailing list no one else would. I have developed from being utterly terrified of speaking at the first meeting of the Group to giving lectures and workshops for the Society on genealogical and social media topics. The confidence this has given me is priceless.

I’m now on the Council, helping to make strategic decisions about how the Society conducts its work, and I enjoy that too.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: You get more out of volunteering than you put into it. And you might develop skills you didn’t know you had in you!

Photo courtesy of Artography on

Sydney 2000 Olympics, 10 years on

Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 2000 OlympicsToday is the 10th anniversary of the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. It really doesn’t seem that long ago. The radio has been full of it all week, and the TV today.

I have nothing but happy memories of the two weeks of the Games, and the two weeks of the Paralympics afterwards.

Earlier in the year when the hoopla was gearing up I thought the best to do would be to escape from Sydney. My husband, bless him, knew better and went into the draw for tickets. And what tickets they were! The last day of the swimming finals, the football final, some athletics, some volleyball, and some diving.

The working population of Sydney was encouraged to take holidays if possible to reduce the demand on the public transport system, so I opted to ‘work from home’. I think I actually did some work, too. Mostly I was watching, or listening, to the Olympic Games. I remember sitting in the computer room with my laptop dialled in to the office with the TV on in the next room.

An added benefit of holding the Games on the east coast of Australia was that we could watch them on TV in real time without having to stay up all night, and I did more Olympic TV watching than I ever have before. Or since.

Olympic crowdsThe atmosphere in Sydney for the few days leading up to the Opening Ceremony and the weeks of the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games was amazing. Everyone was happy and friendly and proud. The place was full of tourists and we were happy for them to be here and proud of our city. It is difficult to describe the vibe. The many people who decided to get out of Sydney missed out on something very special.

We attended the Opening Ceremony Rehearsal the night before the Opening Ceremony itself. It was absolutely incredible! We were so proud to be Australian that night! We’d all been a bit appalled by the blow-up kangaroos on bikes at the Closing Ceremony of the Atlanta Games and we were almost holding our breath to see what they would come up with.

It was spectacular, from the moment the stock horses came thundering into the stadium.

Man from Snowy RiverThe Aboriginal welcome ceremony was moving and very real.

There was floating sea creatures, lawnmowers and garden sheds, tap-dancers with Blundstone boots, and we loved every minute of it. The whole night was exactly the same as the actual Opening Ceremony except that there were school children marching around and assembling in the centre instead of athletes, and the cauldron wasn’t lit. The kids were so happy, and we cheered them all on.

We got 4 tickets to a Volleyball game because my brother-in-law used to play representative volleyball at school. My mother won 2 tickets to the same game, so we were able to give my sister our 4 tickets for 2 of the children to go, and my husband and I used Mum’s 2 tickets.

The diving, which is one of the few sports I’d always liked to watch on TV, is better watched on TV. We were seated down the other end from where the action was and could see very little.

Athletic heats Day 13

We enjoyed the day we went to the Athletics so much that I had my first experience of eBay looking for more tickets. I got 2 tickets to one of the Finals sessions from someone in the United States, and they arrived by courier only that afternoon. We were a bit late but not too late. We were sitting very close to the front, surrounded by Americans.

This is the Women’s 200m Final:

Women's 200m Final

Here is the USA 100m relay team going around after winning the gold medal:

4x100m men's final

Earlier that day we went to the Football Final. We call it soccer in Australia, and I had never been to a soccer game, or watched one on TV, in my life. Cameroon was playing Spain, and most of the crowd, or certainly the Aussies in the crowd, were cheering for the ‘Roonies’. When there was a 2-all draw after extra time we were treated to the spectacle of a penalty shootout. The Spanish looked very tense, and the Roonies were casually lying about on the grass. The Roonies won and it was very exciting!Cameroon

I had never really understood the need to actually be at the game until that day. The noise and excitement of 120,000 cheering people is something I will never forget. I can even understand the attraction to soccer, although I would never admit this to my Rugby League Fan husband.

We’d also done the Swimming Finals that day. The 1500m Men’s Final was won by Grant Hackett, but I was really hoping that Keiran Perkins would win again. At the end the teams came out and the Aussies

Olympic flame

All I remember about the Closing Ceremony, which we watched on TV, was Peter Garrett and his SORRY T-shirt, and the Greek chorus in Athens.

And then life went back to normal. I went back to work in the office. The trains went back to their normal schedule.

The Paralympics were famous for the enormous school groups that sang the Australian National Anthem at gold medal ceremonies. I went twice and had a wonderful time. My company gave us a night in the corporate box for the athletics, and we saw Louise Sauvage win a gold medal. At least I remember it that way.

Except for finals you could drop in and out of any event, and I did. I can’t even remember the names of some of the sports now. The most exciting is definitely the wheelchair basketball – those guys are maniacs!

I have a lot of great memories of the Games. I’ve kept all the guides from the newspaper, and the DVD of the Opening Ceremony. I’ve got an album of photos, tickets and other paraphernalia, and I’m sure I still have a couple of T-shirts.  I also have a dark orange Sydney Olympics DrizaBone that I have never worn since.

It was a great time in our history and I’m so glad I was here to see it. Aussie Aussie Aussie!!!

Carole and Keith in the Olympic Stadium

All photos taken by Carole Riley and Keith Bassett.

Doctor Who in an underground vault in Utah

I am watching an old episode of Doctor Who, with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor. It’s called ‘Dalek’, for those who are interested. They’ve just appeared in an underground Vault in Utah and I was expecting to see shelves and shelves of microfilm! But no, it’s an alien museum, owned by the owner of the internet.

OK, now the Dalek has taken out the power for the whole of Utah. What will happen to the FHL???

Haha, I remember this episode, the Dalek can fly up stairs!