Two English volunteers at the U 23 Championships in Finland

From 13th to 16th July 2023, the European Athletics Under 23 Championships took place in Espoo, Finland, where 1,100 athletes from 40 different countries fought for Under 23 European Championship success. Aaron and Isabella from St John Ambulance joined our Finnish colleagues and worked as first aiders to provide safety to athletes, spectators, and officials.

Here is what Aaron reports:

“My name is Aaron, a St John Ambulance volunteer from Birmingham, United Kingdom. In July 2023, I was fortunate to participate in a JOIN Volunteer Swap in Espoo, Finland at the Under 23 European Athletics Championships. It was great to meet so many athletes & their coaches from different countries as well as to see Team GB compete in action! 

During my time in Finland, I was very kindly looked after by Johanniter Finland, and the Finnish Center for Integrity in Sports also known as FINCIS. As part of the exchange, there was another St John Ambulance volunteer from England called Isabella who is from the other side of England to me, so it didn’t feel as overwhelming being the only one from St John Ambulance England.  

For half of our stay, we stayed in a cabin in the countryside which was amazing. Surrounded by natural beauty. A big thank you to our host Marju and drivers Robin & Cecilla for taking care of us during our time in Finland!

I was assigned to the anti-doping team, which was something I was excited to do as it is different from my role in England and would allow me to gain insight into how European Athletics ensure fairness and integrity within athletic sporting competitions. 

As part of my role, I worked as an anti-doping chaperone. This involved me working independently and with the anti-doping control officers from FINCIS to notify athletes that they had been selected for an anti-doping test. I would then chaperone selected athletes to the doping control station and ensure they are under supervision until the urine sample is provided. Athletes, upon notification, are allowed to request a delay in reporting to the testing centre, for example, to attend medal ceremonies or perform cool-down activities, so I got to see a wide variety of things during my time from how athletes warm up and cool down for their athletic events, the emotions of winnings from their team & family, and celebrating their success at medal ceremonies etc.  

During time off from volunteering, myself & Isabella were able to explore the city & the surrounding areas during our time off thanks to the team at Johanniter Finland. A memorable trip was when Mortiz, Johanniter Finland’s Chairman, took us out to Helsinki for the day & a boat trip to the island of Suomenlinna. This was coincidentally on the same day as President Biden’s trip to Helsinki, however, traffic was defiantly not as bad as in London so that was a massive positive. We had lunch on the pier and a guided tour around the island of Suomenlinna which was amazing.  

If you are reading this and you are a St John Ambulance volunteer anywhere in the world, this is your sign to sign up for a SWAP programme. It is a great opportunity to experience how events work in other countries whilst being able to meet new people and see new places. I hope to be able to complete another SWAP in the future and would look forward to meeting someone from another St John Ambulance sister charity on a swap in England.“