Going the extra mile for the Special Olympics
Imagine walking out to compete at the world-famous marble stadium where athletes gathered for the Panathenaic Games in ancient times and the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, and where the 2004 Olympic marathons finished. That’s the dream of thousands of Special Olympics participants around the world who are striving towards the 2011 Special Olympics Summer World Games, in Athens, Greece.
|Program Fast Facts
About Microsoft’s Employee Volunteer Program
- Launched in 2007, the Employee Volunteer Program is a global Microsoft program to encourage Microsoft full-time employees to give time and expertise to community organizations and causes that inspire them.
- The program provides employees with up to 3 paid days per year for volunteer work on initiatives that help people all over the world to realize their full potential.
- Since 2007, almost every Microsoft subsidiary in Europe has formally implemented the “3 days to make a difference” policy which has enabled an extensive portfolio of subsidiary and individually-driven initiatives.
And while the hopeful competitors are training hard and taking part in local and regional Special Olympics competitions along the road to Athens, they have an army of supporters working and cheering for them – including several teams of Microsoft volunteers in Ireland, Poland and Greece.
Founded more than 40 years ago, and active today in 180 countries, the Special Olympics provide sports training, competition and learning opportunities for more than 2.5 million people with intellectual disabilities. Microsoft’s European employees have been supporting the Special Olympics since 2003, when the quadrennial Summer World Games were held in Dublin, Ireland and Microsoft employees volunteered to do fundraising and to provide technology and event support during the Games.
Since then, Microsoft has provided software donations to more than a dozen Special Olympics national and regional entities, while Microsoft employees in several European countries have initiated a range of volunteering activities to support the Special Olympics movement in this region.
In Ireland, where Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE) – a regional network of 58 national organizations - is based, a group of Microsoft volunteers, supported by the company, has implemented a pilot project to utilize the benefits of cloud computing that will help SOEE and its network members use information technology more effectively.
The project involves deployment of solutions based on the Microsoft Business Online Productivity Suite (BPOS) together with software donations and consulting and training support.
This is enabling SOEE to standardize and streamline administration and collaboration, reduce travel costs and improve planning, communications and services in the delivery of high-quality events.
The Microsoft volunteers, David Szabo, Denis Condon, Aidan Nolan and Daragh Morrissey, provided pro bono consultancy advice and ran a number of training workshops for SOEE employees. The team received Microsoft Europe’s “NGO IT Volunteer Award” in 2010 for their dedication.
Commenting on the project, Mary Davis, Managing Director, Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia, says:
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Special Olympics Europe Eurasia to partner with Microsoft and enables us to seamlessly work and collaborate across all our countries much more effectively, regardless of location, time, etc. It will also ensure huge cost savings for the organization which is vital due to the economic crisis at present.”
In Poland, the 2010 Special Olympics European Summer Games were held in Warsaw in September, bringing together 1600 athletes from the 58 SOEE countries to contest nine sports. Microsoft has supported the Games in two ways: through donated software and technical support to the ELIOS2010 Foundation, which is organizing the Games, and through a team of four Microsoft volunteers.
One of the volunteers, Artur Zarski, has advised ELIOS2010 on IT issues, while Malgorzata Nowak Piszlewicz and Dariusz Jarosz registered as volunteers during the Games. The fourth volunteer, Slawomir Strzykowski, was asked by ELIOS2010 to be the leader of all the volunteers assisting the Games participants from other countries.
In this role, Slawomir prepared a Sharepoint communication platform for ELIOS2010 and the Games volunteers, and trained them on how to use it; as well as participating in weekend trainings for Games volunteers preparing them to fulfill their duties. Slawomir brought to this key role his professional competences in IT, his foreign language skills, leadership skills and his background as a professionally certified psychologist.
In recognition of his outstanding contribution, Slawomir was Microsoft Poland’s “Volunteer of the Year” in 2010. Speaking of his efforts, he says:
“My credo is from Shakespeare, who wrote, ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on.’ Helping people is my dream because everyone deserves to smile.”
In Greece, the 2011 World Summer Games will be held in many of the same venues made famous by the 2004 Olympic Games – the OAKA Olympics Center for athletics, swimming and cycling, the SEF indoor sports center, and Kallimarmaro, the iconic marble stadium where athletic games have taken place since the 5th century B.C.
Microsoft Hellas’s Citizenship coordinator, Lia Komninou, is leading an initiative in which several Microsoft employees have already had volunteering roles in the World Games test events that were held in early summer 2010; and with the goal of recruiting up to 70 volunteers from Microsoft offices across Europe for the 2011 World Games. Their volunteering roles are expected to involve assisting in the running of events for very young athletes and helping as stewards during the marathon race and at the Closing Ceremony.
“We are honored to offer our help to the 2011 World Summer Games, in a number of ways: technology support through donation of software, sponsorship of 3 local athletes who can now feel the joy of participating in the Games and, most importantly, through our volunteers who are whole-heartedly devoted to contribute to this great cause,” says Lia Kominou. “The Special Olympics constitute the best paradigm of our Citizenship vision: they strive to offer each and every person the opportunity to realize their full potential. We stand by their efforts as committed and proud partners.”