WHEN Tamworth’s Fiona Schwalback was pondering how she would use her annual leave last month, the possibilities seemed endless – overseas holiday, week on the Gold Coast, relaxing around home with family.
Instead, the 20-year-old decided to devote her time to a cause close to her heart – the Special Olympics.
For an inspiring week in Newcastle, Miss Schwalback acted as a chaperone to athletes from 29 countries with an intellectual disability at the Asia-Pacific Special Olympics.
But while she may have devoted her holidays to help others, she said she was the ultimate winner from the experience.
“These athletes are so happy with who they are and that was what I really took out of it,” she said. “They could be angry at the world but they’re not and that’s the real lesson I got out of the week.”
On one of her four shifts as a volunteer, Miss Schwalback manned the lanes at the ten pin bowling competition.
“The sportsmanship was just incredible,” she said. “It wasn’t just their teammates they were encouraging, they were giving high fives to the opposition as well. It was amazing to see.”
Miss Schwalback, an assistant manager at Tamworth’s Club Synergy, also volunteered as village support in the Asian athletes’ village and in the healthy athlete program.