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Volunteering has helped me meet amazing people

I have been welcomed with open arms to all the volunteering I have been involved with so far and it has opened up a whole new world to me. I have met some of the most amazing people I would never have met had I not volunteered and my life is all the richer for it.

Karolyn Gaston from Carrickfergus has been volunteering since January 2009.

Karolyn says, "I am Chair of Team Madigan Cycling Club and I am also Chair of their Social Organising Committee. I am a member of the Tour of the North International Cycle Race Committee and also volunteer at the four stage/day race itself, marshalling, helping with catering, driving, etc.

I am currently working on a partnership with the Ulster Sports Academy at the University of Ulster in relation to cycling and am working on a celebrity 'launch party' and involved in project management and event management. I am also a Committee member of Cycling Ulster.

I recently volunteered as a Selection Event Volunteer for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and was involved in interviewing Games Maker Applicants (of which I am one).

I was asked to be Chair of Team Madigan as my skills and experience in the area was known to members and the previous Chair had vacated the post on short notice. From there it has snowballed into doing an Event Management for Volunteers course last August, then I enrolled in September 2010 for a MSc in Event Management and from there my interest grew and I am planning to be involved with the World Championship Competition for Bocchia which is the qualifier for the Paralympics to be held at the University of Ulster's Jordanstown campus in August 2011, the London 2012 Olympics as a Games Maker in 2012 and the World Police and Fire Games in 2013 to name but a few.

I continue to be involved in a number of events and committees for a number of reasons. Mainly as a supportive role to my community and my partner who is a cyclist and member of Team Madigan. From there my interest in cycling grew as did my willingness to bring my transferable skills from my work experience and make a positive difference.

I have the passion and drive, qualifications and experience to make a difference. I have been welcomed with open arms to all the volunteering I have been involved with so far and it has opened up a whole new world to me. I have met some of the most amazing people I would never have met had I not volunteered and my life is all the richer for it.

I normally volunteer two or three nights a month and more when it is peak cycling season, weekends and recently holiday periods. I consider all volunteering opportunities open to me as an opportunity and, if I can, I will contribute gladly if I can fit it in with my family, study and full-time employment.

What I enjoy most about volunteering is the people, the enthusiasm, the excitement, the new experiences gained, networking, the expansion of knowledge I never thought possible, giving time and commitment to others, new contacts and networks and it's also fun!

It's amazing the doors that can open that you never knew were there in front of you. The possibilities are endless if you're willing to learn, be involved and try something new or familiar, the friendliness and willingness of others is inspirational. Given the current economic climate I would encourage anyone to consider volunteering be it in sport, with a charity, community or whatever. It will add to your CV and your skills base. The personal satisfaction, experience, exhilaration, new friends and contacts are endless!! It's truly amazing!

For more sports related volunteering stories go to www.volunteernow.co.uk/volunteering/volunteering-and-2012-sports/sports-volunteers-in-action