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Volunteering at the IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention

Posted 20 juin 2013, 10:47 , by Guest

By Franziska Perl, AIDS 2010 and IAS 2011 volunteer

The first time I volunteered was for the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010) in Vienna, Austria. I had never volunteered before and given the opportunity that this well-attended international event was held in the city where I lived, I was very excited to become part of it.

I was about to pick up my badge and my T-shirt at the conference venue, when I noticed that some volunteers were already busy packing conference material into delegate bags. They were singing and laughing and diligently working next to each other. Obviously, it was hard work, I had never seen that many empty bags that needed to be filled! Nevertheless, it looked like great fun too and good vibes were all around. I decided to join that highly motivated bag packing team and I got to know very nice and open-minded people.

My actual task at AIDS 2010 consisted of supervising a group of 15 volunteers in the Session Rooms. When working together with many amazing volunteers and catching a glimpse of interesting sessions and podium panels, I also had the opportunity to have some interesting chats with delegates, speakers and media representatives.

On the last day of the conference, when it was time to say Goodbye to my volunteer colleagues and friends, the word ‘Goodbye’ quickly changed into ‘See you next year in Rome’. And indeed, I found myself in this beautiful city in the following year. Thanks to the wonderful moments I had and the beautiful friendships I made in Vienna, it was out of question not to participate at IAS 2011. In the magical city of Rome, I had to honor to be part of the IAS Volunteer Coordination Team. While working onsite behind the Volunteer desk, I got to know every single volunteer in person by checking them in and out every day or changing their schedules if needed.

Starting to work at 5:30 in the morning, whereas coffee was served at 6:00 only, was not very easy, but as soon as I saw the first happy face of a volunteer who started his morning shift, I was ready to start the busy day with a constant smile on my face.

To conclude my wonderful volunteering tasks at the IAS, I am personally convinced that volunteering is an incredibly beautiful experience. If you can, don’t let the opportunity slip by! I am grateful about the precious friendships I made and I always enjoy the somehow magical atmosphere volunteers create. Each and every volunteer has his own story and therefore his own reasons to participate. Many volunteers are living with HIV, have an HIV related background or friends who are infected. Many students join the AIDS and IAS conferences because they cannot afford the conference ticket, therefore they volunteer in order to attend some sessions. Many come from faraway countries and have different cultural backgrounds.

Volunteering at IAS for me is a fantastic opportunity to meet interesting, warm-hearted people from all over the world and it allows you to learn about your personal strengths and limits. If you can, go and seize the opportunity to volunteer at least once in your life!