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Volunteering at the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games has given UHN staff member Sharon Munawa an opportunity to learn about health care around the world.
As a member of the TGH and TWH Nursing Resource Team (Medical/Surgical cluster), Munawa has experience with various medical issues, which inspired her to volunteer as a nurse at the Polyclinic in the Athletes' Village.
"It has been an amazing experience from a health-care perspective and a social perspective, meeting so many health-care professionals and athletes," says Munawa. "It's amazing interacting with different people from so many different countries."
From nursing to administration, the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games have attracted nearly 23,000 volunteers - like Munawa - to ensure an efficient and enjoyable Games. Many of these volunteers are UHN employees, including Amelia Navarrete, a research administrative assistant at Princess Margaret.
Nurse on the go: Sharon Munawa's story
Munawa began her career in nursing two years ago. She credits her childhood in Zimbabwe and her mother's career as a nurse as inspiration behind her own career.
"Growing up in Zimbabwe, I watched family members suffer and sometimes die from health problems that can easily be treated due to a lack of knowledge and resources," she explains.
"My mom, who is also a nurse, has been my biggest role model because she has truly shown me what it's like to love one's career. Additionally, my personal experience while living in Zimbabwe has been of great influence to me wanting to reach out and give people a helping hand."
Sharon's skills in nursing have come in handy for the Polyclinic, which is located inside the Athletes' Village and provides various medical services to Pan Am and Parapan Am athletes including emergency services, family medicine, sports and rehab and specialty services.
The Polyclinic, a temporary medical facility, is lead by Dr. Julia Alleyne, Chief Medical Officer of the Games and the medical lead for Toronto Rehab's Musculoskeletal Outpatient Services.
'Opportunity of a lifetime': Amelia Navarrete's story
Nursing is just one volunteer position that UHN employees have filled.
Fluent in Spanish, English and Italian, Navarrete volunteered for a different position at the Games.
She has been a National Olympic Committee Assistant for the Dominican Republic Delegation at the Athletes' Village during the Games. Her duties have included translating for Dominican Republic team; driving athletes and staff; and performing various administrative duties.
"It was the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of this experience and to show other nations the wonders of Toronto and its multiculturalism," says Navarrete. "The Spanish community was also eager to volunteer as we were needed everywhere for the language skills."
One of her favourite experiences during the Games was driving in the Support and Gear (SAG) cars behind the athletes during the cycling competition. Her role was to provide translation to the team coach who was driving the SAG coach, as information on their team's performance and support requirements was delivered in English through the radio.
If her team's cyclists required water, snacks or technical assistance, it was Amelia's responsibility to hand them these items as the SAG car rushed to their team's cyclists in an adjacent lane.
A global hub in Toronto
"We've had over 23,000 enthusiastic volunteers help us deliver the largest event in Canadian history and it's been phenomenal," says Darryl McKenzie, Vice-President, Volunteer Services for the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.
"Everyone's involved in all aspects of operations, from helping our athletes to our dignitaries to making sure our spectators have a great time. We're so proud of all the talent and energy that they've brought to this project."
Both Munawa and Navarrete's experiences have exposed them to medical professionals and athletes from around the world.
"It's been amazing interacting with different health-care professionals in the province and working alongside other professionals, doctors and therapists from all over the GTA," says Munawa.
The Parapan Am Games begin on Friday Aug. 7 and will continue through to Aug.15. The Pan Am Games ran from July 10-26.