During the Summer, we launched LanguageLine Gives Back and we took part in two incredible events. Today, we look at our very first volunteer of the LanguageLine Gives Back initiative. Our very own Nikki Dallas recounts her time at the British Transplant Games, held in Leeds in July.

We hear about her experience first-hand, how much the volunteering opportunity changed her perspective and what it means for those that are donors or have receive a transplant. The following is taken from the interview with Nikki.


How much did you know about the Transplant Games and why did you get involved?

"I was aware of the Transplant games but didn't know much about them. I hadn’t volunteered at Leeds City Hospital before, although have worked for another charity for the last 5-years. Leeds City Hospital highlighted various opportunities to help those in need or volunteer in different campaigns. I didn't have any other direct link to the Transplant games, as I'm not a donor or even know anyone who has ever had a transplant. I just thought this was an opportunity to take part in something exceptional. Having volunteered at the games, I've seen how much of a difference it has made to people's lives and their loved ones."

What did you do as a volunteer?

"In terms of the actual volunteering itself, we had to download an app that gave us some instructions and told us where to go etc. We had our induction, and it was very clear and straightforward. We were told who we needed to report to and what to do, so any worry was immediately calmed. I was given my lanyard with my name on it and my waterproof and was set on my way. We were assigned to different areas of the course to look after. We were also paired up with some young people who (as part of the programme) had learning difficulties and were using their time to volunteer at the games. I was paired with this young lady, Amelia, who was super helpful and lovely. We had spent time putting banners on the railings, marshalling the runners, and speaking to spectators.

We'd radio in to respond or report any issues whilst receiving updates on the run. About 1500 people were running during the event, and we had a DJ who kept the party atmosphere going. It was all so well organised, from start to finish. And the run was just one part of this four-day event. Which included: athletics, swimming, and football. The main run itself was 5K, but for the Leeds City Hospital, the run was 3K, and they do this every year. I think it would be super fun to get involved with and perhaps will do it next year!"

How was the rest of the day and how did you feel by the end of it?

"As the day went on, we grabbed some lunch provided by the organisers. We interacted with the crowd a bit more, and before we knew it, the run had finished. As the run was ending, many of the runners clapped for the volunteers as they were running towards the finish line, thanking us for helping during the event. Alongside other volunteers, we finished our duties and reached our meeting point. Yet again, we were greeted by a round of applause and cheering for us. It was very humbling, and I was truly touched.

At first, I thought, "no, we are just the volunteers." Yet, there was a mutual appreciation for our efforts. We were then handed badges to commemorate our volunteering, and I found this quite emotional. As volunteers, we didn't run but felt part of something special. I felt very appreciated, which is obviously a lovely feeling. Who doesn't like to feel appreciated?"

What was the most eye-opening part of your experience?

"During the day, I spoke to people who have undergone the transplant process and learnt what this looks like in real life. At most, you hear anecdotal stories or stuff you read in the news. But when you get that opportunity to speak to someone, it makes the experience extremely informative and worthwhile. It opens a whole new set of doors to such a unique part of the world. For example, my husband had volunteered alongside me and had told me he was speaking to a liver transplant patient who was aged only 24 and lived in the next town. He had had a successful liver transplant in January and was able to play football that morning and joined the run in the evening."

What else did you learn from speaking to someone who received a transplant?

"The young man spoke about how today didn't seem like a reality 12 months ago. Without the transplant, he had to put exercise on the back burner whilst he was poorly. Although he was well supported, experiencing that quality of life was extremely hard for him and understandably so. So, hearing that his transplant was successful, and he could get back to living an active life whilst raising awareness in the meantime is so inspiring. And it's what these games are all about.

Through the games, I also learned more about other realities of being a donor or receiving a transplant. For example, the organ donated to the young man came from the victim of a car crash. Despite such horrid circumstances, it has allowed him to live a healthy life. For which he’d always be grateful. If that person wasn't a donor, there's a good chance he wouldn't be here either". The opportunity to hear this first-hand was an honour and really changed my perspective on being an organ donor. It was humbling."

Final thoughts?

"I think everyone should try to do some level of volunteering if they're able to, because it is so worthwhile. I really enjoyed it and got a great buzz out of it. Even though I was exhausted, I felt amazing when I got home that day. It was all worth it. Despite having conversations with some irate drivers who wanted to drive through the running lane, the day was a blast, and I'd happily do it all again!"