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Newcomer hurries hard to make curling event a success

Immigrant from Nigeria knew nothing of sport, but found purpose, satisfaction co-ordinating volunteer force for huge outdoor event

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Less than six months after moving to Winnipeg from Lagos, Nigeria, Yemi Ajibola was on the lookout for volunteer opportunities.

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Less than six months after moving to Winnipeg from Lagos, Nigeria, Yemi Ajibola was on the lookout for volunteer opportunities.

Ajibola arrived in February 2021 and by the end of June that year he had applied to help out with the Ironman Outdoor Curling Bonspiel.

The not-for-profit tournament, which takes place every February, has raised more than $185,000 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and other Canadian charities since its inaugural event in 2002.

Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press

Yemi Ajibola, 42, volunteers as the coordinator for the Ironman Outdoor Curling Bonspiel, which takes place every February.

Ajibola wasn’t familiar with curling when he learned about the bonspiel on the volunteer opportunities page at Volunteer Manitoba’s website, but he was attracted to the event’s charitable aspect.

“When I read about Ironman, it was something I could connect with because the cause is a noble one,” the 42 year old says. “I applied to volunteer and I got picked.”

A lawyer by training, Ajibola currently works at an insurance company. He also has experience with human resources, which comes in handy in his current role as the bonspiel’s volunteer co-ordinator.

“What I try to do is get volunteers to put their time and effort into the whole program,” he says. “Because of my experience as a lawyer and my HR experience — I have a couple years’ experience in recruiting — it’s easy for me to get it done.”

The commitment of the volunteers and the competitors are what stick out most for Ajibola when he looks back to last year’s bonspiel. Nearly 50 volunteers helped make the event happen and 32 teams competed.

“When you work with awesome people it’s really great, and when you get volunteers to come in who are dedicated to what they’re doing, it really makes me happy,” he says. “The event itself is very, very cold, but people are so excited about the whole thing and that’s because of the cause itself.”

Ajibola’s interest in giving back to the community started when he was a child.

“I was raised in a volunteering home,” he says.

His father, a businessman, and his mother, a hairdresser, taught him that it’s better to give than to receive.

“That spoke to me all my life,” he says. “That is my motivation. I’ve always wanted to give.”

Ajibola is currently recruiting volunteers for this year’s bonspiel, which will take place Feb. 3-5 on the Red River at Redboine Boat Club (20 Churchill Dr.).

In addition to people who can help with registration at the event, Ajibola and his colleagues on the organizing committee are looking for a fundraising co-ordinator, a media co-ordinator, a social media assistant and a treasurer.

“Aside from those specific areas, there’s always space for anyone,” Ajibola says. “We’ll find something to do for anybody that is willing to come on board.”

Email volunteercoordinator@ironmancurling.com or phone 204-831-8816 for details.

“When you finish the event and you present the donations to the organizations, the smiles on their faces make you feel good and like all your effort is worth it,” Ajibola says.

“When the event is a success… knowing what the teams and all the volunteers have put into it, that’s always a highlight for me. It’s a great feeling.”

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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