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154. Supporting NATO summit

May 31, 2012

Chicago has been the host to several global events during this century and the last. However, the most high profile event in recent times that this beautiful city hosted was NATO. I was fortunate to be involved with NATO thanks to a colleague who was part of the host committee. This blog is to share my experiences and to highlight how this city and nation has a great culture of volunteering.

There were broadly six different kinds of assignments available for those who were not eligible to  be at the epicenter of the summit. These included assisting at couple of pre-summit sporting events including a kite festival and assembling of gift bags and during the summit rendering support at the airport, the baseball game, the transportation for spouses of delegates and at the volunteer control room and the media center. I was able to be part of four assignments and each of them was a different experience, meeting new people, handling very important people and learning what kind of detailing goes into these events.

The first assignment I signed up for was to help assemble Chicago special goodie bags that were being given to all delegates. Over two days 50 volunteers including UPS employees assembled 7000 goodie bags which contained Garrett’s Popcorn, “Chicago Truffles, Fisher Nuts, Quaker Oats Yogurt and Granola Bars, Orbit gum from The Wrigley Company, Milky Way from the Mars Chicago factory, music from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a bike map, visitor guide maps, a Chicago flag pin and a Chicago “fun facts” notebook about Chicago. This was a fun activity.

On the day before the summit I was assigned to the airport to be one of the many faces of Chicago greeting NATO delegates and the 2000 strong journalist community which was arriving by the plane loads. This was an exciting task. Not only did our group at Terminal 3 end up helping over 50 delegates – mostly media during our shift but we ended up as information guides for all things Chicago to over 500 people during our 5 hour shift.

That evening was the  grandest of all assignments thanks to my co workers Deb and Allison. We were at the crosstown classic at Wrigley Field to watch the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs play a great game of baseball. This was the second time I was watching a ball game and the first was on the previous day with another co worker Jordan who brought me up to speed on the rules and nuances of the sport. The game was a great experience thanks to the air conditioned arena we were located in and the company of young Atlantists to watch the game with and not to forget the fact that among the spectators was Secretary Hillary Clinton.

On the summit day there were numerous events taking place around Chicago for spouses of delegates in different categories. There were spouses of ambassadors, of defence ministers and of foreign ministers and they all were being educated and entertained about the great city. I was part of a team that were posted in various hotels to help them find the right transportation in the most discreet way so that they were not  lost or carried away by the hundreds of anti NATO protesters hovering around Chicago.

My fourth and final  job was at the volunteer center helping man the premises and then wind up the entire set up that helped manage the softer aspects of the summit with over 200 volunteers coming in and out of the volunteer center for refreshments, T shirts and to find their roster for the day. All in all this was a great event to be part of and be exposed to at close quarters. I am looking forward to volunteering during two weekends of June at two more high profile events in Chicago.

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