We're here to help

Martin Challenor
12 July 2000
Among the thousands of delegates from a host of backgrounds, a throng of media people from around the world, and officials, there is an unsung but vital group of people oiling the wheels of the 13th International AIDS Conference at the International Convention Centre / the volunteers.

Working for just their meals, the more than 750 volunteers have become indispensable for the well-being of delegates and the smooth running of the conference. Most of them are putting in eight days of work - for no pay.

They come from all parts of the city, and are mostly ready to serve with a smile. 
Volunteer Ms Sulochnee Pillay, from Morningside, Durban is an administrator at the University of Durban-Westville. She took leave to serve at the conference. "I volunteered because I find it interesting working with people from different backgrounds and different countries. I am interested in the awareness of AIDS," Pillay said.

"While working as a volunteer I have learnt so much. I want to take it back to UDW and teach other people what I have learnt," she said.

"I am enjoying myself. I would do it again. Actually, I wish the AIDS conference would come back to Durban. This is from the bottom of my heart. The people are so warm."

At best, the volunteers get two meals a day for their efforts to make the conference a success, all while showing one of the best faces of Durban and its people.

Delegates repeatedly have expressed their thanks to the volunteers, knowing that without them the conference would not be as smooth as it has been so far: Medical people have also come forward to help. There is a first aid centre operating in the basement of the ICC, staffed by nurses, doctors and homeopaths. They, too, are serving without charging.

Doctors and nurses have come from the King Edward VIII and St Aidan's hospitals, plus the Durban and Greytown municipalities. The homeopaths have come from Technikon Natal.
They see 25 patients a day, but could see many more if need be. They treat minor ailments and refer more serious problems to St Aidan's and Entabeni hospitals, or to government hospitals for delegates without medical insurance.

Conference specialist Dr. Tim France said: "In our part of the secretariat, almost every article or press release has passed through a volunteer's hands at some stage. This conference would simply not have been possible without this army of volunteers. They have been energetic, interested and committed. "Next year, by the way, is the International Year of the Volunteer."

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