5 December 2023
From 19-23 June, RTL Deutschland brought 23 employees to volunteer at the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023. Among the 23 was Shira Leffel, Executive Director of Marketing & Product Education at smartclip. We sat down with Shira to learn more about what motivated her to volunteer, her experiences as a “corporate volunteer”, and her key takeaways from the event.
1. What motivated you to become an RTL Deutschland corporate volunteer for the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023?
When I heard about the opportunity for smartclippers to apply to become RTL corporate volunteers at the Special Olympics, I immediately took interest because the topic of acceptance and inclusion — of all people — is a big passion of mine both inside and outside the office. In the office, I spearheaded, together with colleagues, the creation of smartclip’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and now serve as Committee Chair. Outside of the office, I have participated in countless volunteer/work programmes with adults and children with intellectual and physical disabilities. I’ve also been a lifelong athlete and deeply understand the life value that sports bring.
There couldn’t have been a more suitable organisation whose mission means a great deal to me on both a personal and professional level.
2. What were you and the team responsible for?
The RTL team was responsible for Volleyball Competition Management. We all worked directly on the court of play, supporting the Games operations and assisting the competition management team with organisational processes. Our tasks included supportive roles that enable the execution of a professional-level game, such as on-court ball retrieval, court wipe-downs, water retrieval, and managing the scoreboard.
Since I’m pregnant, I needed a low-intensity position, so I was responsible for managing the scoreboard — which came with its own unique challenges. This included sitting together with the officials, following calls closely, inputting time and score into the computer system, and liaising with officials at the end of each game to confirm final numbers before submitting them to the official data system. Since the game moves quickly, you really have to stay on your toes.
3. What impressed you the most?
The first thing that really impressed me were the athletes — and the sheer talent on the court. For every three athletes (i.e., competing athletes with intellectual disabilities), there were three partners (i.e., athletes without intellectual disabilities) on the court for each team at all times. This really brought a sense of inclusion to a high-intensity game. I was also impressed by the general camaraderie and sportspersonship. It was a unique case because there seemed to be a genuine win-win attitude on the court. Instead of vilifying mistakes, teams used them to boost morale and encourage each other. And when there were wins, well, the celebration was so great that you couldn’t help but feel the joy — and smile.
I was also impressed with my colleagues, to be honest. Most of us work in wildly different areas of the Group and have never met, and yet we came together as a committed team — organising well among ourselves, taking our roles seriously, genuinely interested in the athletes, and finding time to have fun and get to know each other on the side. I’m actually still receiving WhatsApp messages from our group chat — and yet we would have never met had we not been offered this opportunity.
On that note, I was also deeply impressed that RTL Deutschland sponsored 23 employees to be corporate volunteers for one week in Berlin. This expensive initiative really put words to action and showed the values we stand for as an organisation.
4. What was your key takeaway from the event?
I’ve always been an athlete — a super competitive one at that, whether that be competing against others or myself. And I guess what was so moving here was that there was that same level of care and devotion but a levity to it — a happiness just to be there that created such a positive environment. And though players were competing on the world’s stage, you could tell they were really having fun.
So my biggest takeaway: be thankful for the game you’re in and never forget to have fun.
You’ve heard Shira’s story; now, hear from the other RTL corporate volunteers.
Video credit: RTL Deutschland