Team Nila – Empowered Through Sport
With their trademark purple tops, Team Nila plays an important role in major sporting events, ensuring the smooth operation during Games Times, athletes are well cared for and spectators are happy. Now 17,000 strong, and growing, they contribute their time, expertise and experience in every imaginable role.
At the 28th SEA Games Closing Ceremony, Tan Chuan-Jin, President of the Singapore National Olympic Council, expressed the nation’s gratitude to these volunteers. “These Games would not have been possible without the dedication of the nearly 17,000 special individuals from Team Nila who have made us all feel welcomed,” he said.
With long hours and demanding work, Team Nila soldiers on, helping to deliver standout events which have made Singapore proud.
During the 8th ASEAN Para Games Team Nila Appreciation Night on 29 January 2016, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu expressed the nation’s gratitude for their selfless contribution: “We wanted everyone to see Singapore as not just a world class city capable of hosting a major sporting event, but also one with a big heart, and we did it! The Games were a big success, and a big part of that success was because of you, our volunteers! All of you were excellent ambassadors for Singapore.”
Volunteers from All Walks of Life
Team Nila – a nation-wide sport volunteer movement – draws its volunteers from all walks of life. At the 28th SEA Games, the youngest member of Team Nila was 8 years old whereas the oldest was 87. While many were students, there were also office workers, stay-at-home mums, retirees as well as avid sports fans both local and foreign, happy to chip in to make the Games special.
Some draw on their domain expertise like photography and logistics, while others see the various events as an opportunity to try something new.
Team Nila are offered a buffet spread of opportunities according to Pauline Loo, Deputy Director in SportSG, Volunteer Management. They can serve as anti-doping officers, venue managers, ushers, sports specialist volunteers, photographers, protocol officers, safety officers, logisticians, and more.
The key to Team Nila continuing their volunteering journey is to make the experience a truly satisfying and meaningful one. “While they bring value to us, we also bring value to their experience,” said Ms Loo.
A survey was conducted after the SEA Games to gauge volunteers’ response. Results found that 80% were satisfied with their participation and planned to continue their volunteering journey. About 2,000 who volunteered for the 28th SEA Games signed up for the 8th ASEAN Para Games, accounting for half the volunteer force.
Many within Team Nila are seasoned volunteers, sacrificing their leave and leisure time for the opportunity to be part of major events. The sheer thrill of watching events up close, the opportunity to pick up a new skill or two, the friendships forged, the memorable teamwork and the satisfaction of doing something useful make it all worthwhile.
Retiree Tang Chun Tuck volunteered at all four editions of the SEA Games hosted in Singapore. He was a first-aid officer in the first three – in 1973, 1983 and 1993 – and a Media Relations Officer in 2015. The adrenaline rush during the events kept him energised. “It was gratifying to act swiftly on requests,” said Chun Tuck. At the recent Games, he had to think fast and act quickly. In one incident, some photographers missed out on a good vantage point for the start of the 100-metre races as they had arrived late. Chun Tuck guided them to another spot where they could capture the finishing line up close. “When they got their shot, their disappointment turned into joy. How could I not feel happy too?” he said.
Budi Wu Hao Lin signed up with Team Nila in 2013 in response to an invitation by SportSG to be part of the 28th SEA Games, and he has not looked back since. From the SEA Games, in which he served as Delegation Liaison Officer for the Indonesian contingent, he has gone on to volunteer for the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships 2015 as a Liaison Officer, HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens 2016 as a Workforce Manager and Rio 2016 Summer Olympics as a National Olympic Committee Assistant.
Much as they have given, they have also received in spades. For Michele Mitin, a citizen for over a decade and a volunteer since 2013, being in Team Nila was a life changer. “Previously, I was a stay-home mum, enjoying shopping and regular travel, and that was enough for me. The Team Nila experience through the SEA Games, APG and other sports events made my life more colourful and energetic. The defining moment for me was when I was selected to be part of the SG50 Celebrations. For the first time I was feeling truly Singaporean. I used to think that it would be hard to mix with locals but the Team Nila experience actually brought me more local friends,” she said.
Exploring Wider Vistas
SportSG is continuing to leverage on the momentum generated so far to expand the capabilities and capacities for Team Nila. Together with Team Nila, SportSG has already begun to explore how they can leverage this sizeable, diverse talent pool to co-create ideas, champion social causes and enhance the quality of the volunteering experiences for the greater good of the community.
One such example was the HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens 2016 in April where the volunteers ran the entire show. Led by Hanaffia Hamzah, the volunteers were involved at an early stage, working with SportSG officers to lead and manage the tournament, which involved 16 international teams playing 45 matches over two days.
SportSG is committed to investing resources to develop Team Nila to take on the tasks at hand and to help them grow. Through continuous learning, Team Nila can develop and move on to the next level where they are empowered and equipped to co-create, co-design, co-lead, co-manage and co-op.
Given the multitude of talents and the strength of their commitment to give back to the community through sport, the potential for Team Nila to be a force for good is immense. That potential can only get bigger as the team expands to a 30,000 strong force by 2030.
While sport may be the focal point of their collective efforts, volunteers can harness this energy and enthusiasm to other community-based activities and events, making Team Nila a year-round volunteer force, helping to build a caring, resilient and cohesive nation and an enduring ho