Festival volunteers play an indispensable role in Haenggung-dong car-free success

Volunteer doctor on Gobax bike (c) ICLEI e.V.

Konrad Otto-Zimmermann speaks at National Volunteer Conference (c) Suwon City

The four-day National Volunteer Conference commenced on 24 September in the main congress pavilion at EcoMobility World Festival.

Taking place in the context of the unique car-free experiment in Haenggung-dong, the conference drew a 700 strong gathering of volunteering experts from all over Korea to Suwon to share experiences and recognize the enormous efforts made by volunteers in helping to deliver the month-long Festival. Creative Director of EcoMobility World Festival Konrad Otto-Zimmermann addressed the conference stating that without the contribution of the volunteers, the Festival would not have been possible.

Throughout the Festival, long and short term volunteers poured their energies into an enormous variety of tasks including translation, tour guiding and traffic controlling. Over 4,700 volunteers were recruited through the efforts of both UNEP and Suwon Volunteer Center; including local residents, students, community groups and other green-minded Suwon citizens.

Some helping hands came from even further afield, with a volunteer doctor-on-wheels on site in the Festival area thanks to a specially designed ambulance bike from Gobax.

Around 400 volunteer translators helped coordinate the vehicle experiences and cultural programs between Festival teams from Suwon and Bonn, while a scattering of shops around the Festival neighbourhood bore a sign in the window that free translation for visitors was available inside. These efforts to welcome visitors to the Festival area from far and wide sent a strong signal that car-free Haenggung-dong is open for business.

Over 290 tour guides volunteered their local knowledge to take visitor groups either on foot or in a velotaxi through the winding streets of the Festival area, sharing details of the street infrastructure changes and imparting their impressions of the changes to this former city center neighbourhood.

The duties of the 3,072 traffic control volunteers has not always been easy, coming face to face with motorists who are at times less than enamoured with the fact that their well-worn routes through the neighbourhood are now teeming with cyclists and pedestrians. 

So what exactly motivated the volunteers to offer their time in such large numbers? A volunteer student shares “the reason I signed up to volunteer is because I felt it was a very big opportunity for Haenggung-dong to do something fresh and daring. I wanted to play my part in making a more people-friendly neighborhood and wanted to show my support for more green urban policies in Suwon.” When asked what she will take away from the Festival, she shares ‘well I have learned so much about what we can achieve when we work as a community, I feel so inspired by what I have seen take place, but I have also come away with many great new friends.’

A very big thank you to all volunteers who devoted their time and energy into making the world’s first EcoMobility World Festival a great success!