The extensive reach of the 2019 Canada Winter Games cannot be understated, and has been showcased over the last two weeks by people like Ester Pinheiro.
The 21-year-old from Belo Horizonte, Brazil had never been to Canada until arriving to be a media services volunteer at the Repsol Sport Centre in Calgary, where artistic swimming was held during week one.
The chance to volunteer at the Red Deer Games for Pinheiro, a journalism student, first came up after she met a fellow volunteer at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
“I met one guy from Peru, his name is Italo, and he is also a volunteer here in Red Deer. He knows I love traveling, so he said ‘Well Ester, there’s going to be the Winter Games in Canada, so let’s apply. What do you think?’ I was like ‘Yeah, we can do that.’ I applied, he did too, and now we are here.”
Currently a TV sports commentator in her home country, Pinheiro is hoping her experience in Red Deer, specifically at Servus Arena where she's volunteering in week two, will help lead her to a career as an international correspondent.
“The best part of it is I get to know photographers and journalists, make connections, and especially work with them assisting them with whatever they need,” she says.
But soaking in the atmosphere of the 2019 Games has also, understandably, been a priority for Pinheiro, who is more than 10,000 kilometres from home.
From studying hockey to enjoying the more ‘romantic’ tones that come with synchro, she describes what she’s seen thus far as awesome.
“Everybody’s just shouting for their provinces, and it’s so exciting,” Pinheiro says. “So even when you’re a little bit tired because sometimes you’re working all day long, you don’t actually feel tired because you’re always surrounded by that good atmosphere and energy.”
She adds that being a volunteer is something she’s used to.
“I like when you do something just because you love to do it, and you’re not expecting to get something back. I’ve been tutoring as a volunteer, and in high school I was a volunteer, especially in the arts. I like to… feel that I’m helping the community somehow, and it’s great to see these young athletes have this awesome opportunity to show their best, and to invest in their future careers.”
Pinheiro has had two billet homes, one each in Calgary and Red Deer. Here in the primary host city, Todd Nivens and family has put her up while in town to volunteer.
"I expected that we would see volunteers just from around central Alberta, but to hear there was somebody that hopped on an airplane and flew five time zones to volunteer at an event, that's astounding," says Nivens.
"It's been really cool in terms of community spirit; that's the biggest impact on the city from the Games that I've seen, and it's been really interesting to see the Games pull the community together."
Pinheiro is one of 4600 Games time volunteers. Hundreds more served pre-Games, and in total, volunteers have given more than 171,000 hours of their time over 28,000 shifts.
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