Friday, 13 August 2010

Volunteering at Underage

By Georgina Johnson.

My name’s Georgina and I was a part of the volunteer team for the UNICEF Tagd stall at the Underage Festival in Victoria park, London on August 1st.

Having found out about UNICEF through a friend who had been volunteering with them for quite some time, I was eager to get involved.

Alice from UNICEF UK organised a volunteers’ briefing at their office the week before Underage. This was a chance for all the volunteers to meet, converse and generally become comfortable with one and another. It was great!

The briefing began with an icebreaker in which we each were paired with someone we didn’t know. My partner, Flo, was hilarious, which made it so much easier to talk and work together. Then Alice and Anne told us about UNICEF UK’s current campaign on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and about the 'Robin Hood Tax'.

As David Cameron will be on paternity leave (I know, awww), Nick Clegg his deputy will be attending the important MDGs review meeting at the UN in New York. UNICEF UK is promoting a petition to Nick Clegg asking for access to toilets for children all over the world. The aim for Underage was to get 1000 signatures for the petition to show the support of the public for our cause.

I must admit when I heard 1000, I was like ‘wow!’, but after meeting with the organisation and honestly feeling the positivity of each individual I was more than confident we could meet our objective.


The morning of Underage: Woke up early, had plenty of calls reminding me of the TIME and left my house earlier than ever. We met Alice outside Victoria park and once we received our state of the art 'ARENA' armbands and the UNICEF t-shirts it was official , we were a team!

Before the actual event started, we had to set up the stall, which meant having to fight with a severely stubborn blow up armchair, arranging leaflets and putting up banners. That was soon done, but then I had to experience the dreaded portaloos. Once witnessing firsthand the inside of one in all its glory, I persuaded everyone to simply hold it and wait.

As the crowds of teenagers rushed in, we all got ready for action. Approaching people was much easier than I thought. I went for the ‘normal conversation approach’ and most people reacted really positively.

We worked in teams of three and got as many signatures as we could - we all just wanted to achieve our goal! At times we ran out of fuel, but we reminded each other of what and who we were doing this for and the lovely opportunity we had been given.

I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on the actual festival, I could hear the music very clearly from where we were situated. Alice and Anne gave us equal time to each watch some of the artists we liked and I thoroughly enjoyed that. Chiddy Bang , Chase and Status and Tiny Tempah were the highlights for me. Every time a song that everyone knew came on everybody sang in chorus. It was GREAT!

Later on in the day we found out that we had smashed our target! I think at that point everyone was elated. Anne kept on saying – 'Let’s bulldoze past that 1000 target and run straight through, you can do it guys'. And we did. I think we collected around 1500 signatures. Everyone was happy, we’d all helped to make a point: Young people care.

At the end of the day we had time to watch M.I.A, an artist I have long waited to see! M.I.A, being a bit diva-ish, came a bit late, but no one cared, as soon as we heard the sirens and her voice in the distance everyone was on fire. She performed Born free and Paper Planes as her finale whilst I was pushed and shoved to the front by who knows who,
As the show came to a close I reflected on the successes of the day and smiled.

Thank you UNICEF.