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Thursday, August 30, 2012

BEHIND THE SCENES: VOLUNTEERS ARE KEY TO AIDS CONFERENCE SUCCESS


Hayes distributing conference bags and programs
Frank E. Hayes is not a youngster or college student. He has an important full-time job at the Washington State Health Department, as the Coordinator for Health Education and Risk Reduction for HIV and Hepatitis. In his spare time, he also serves as a member of the Advisory Council of Beyond AIDS.  But when he heard at the beginning of April 2012 that volunteers were being sought to work at the upcoming International AIDS Conference in July in the other Washington (DC), for no pay and no travel reimbursement, he rushed to sign up. So many other people did too, mostly from the U.S. but also from other countries, that volunteer registration was closed after only two weeks.



Hayes checking badges for security
1500 volunteers were initially sought, and about 1000 actually served throughout the conference. The received yellow T-shirts, but transportation and housing were at their own expense.

Volunteers filled many essential roles, including helping to plan the conference and to coordinate activities, assisting with registration, greeting visiting delegates and assuring security by verifying proper credentials. They also acted as guides, staffed various offices and activities, and assisted in a display area known as the Global Village. Only occasionally were they free to attend actual conference sessions. However, they bonded socially, and many new friendships developed.


Volunteers cheer for photo near end of conference
Judging from discussions with Hayes and other volunteers during the conference, morale and esprit de corps was excellent. Many gathered on the last day for a group photo, at which they were heard to whoop and cheer.

These volunteers were the unsung heroes who made the conference run smoothly. They were a key to its success, and indirectly, to the spirit of global unity that was evident during the conference.

For a more complete report on the XIX International AIDS Conference from the perspective of Beyond AIDS' President, see next posting.

SAD POSTSCRIPT: The following message was received from Justin Hahn, a colleague of Frank Hayes at the Washington State Health Department, on July 25, 2013, when we inquired about his welfare, since we had not heard from him in some months:

"I am so sorry to say that Frank Hayes passed away on February 18, 2013.  Frank was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor shortly after returning home from the International AIDS Conference last year. Frank was enjoyed and loved by his friends and co-workers. His laugh could be heard across a large room. Some of us at the office spent considerable time with Frank in the hospital and later in the care facility where he made his transition. I personally got to know Frank so much better during this time and I feel so lucky for it. Frank was a loving and generous man."

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