As about 20,000 spectators from more than 40 countries flood Rock Hill for the UCI 2017 BMX World Championships, York County volunteers greet them with: Welcome! Hola! Bonjour!
Hope Matthews, an outdoor education coordinator for the Rock Hill Parks, Recreation and Tourism department, is coordinating volunteers at the translation tent at the Novant Health BMX Supercross Track. Matthews said volunteers from all over the community are coming to help international visitors, including city staff and Winthrop University faculty and students.
Many visitors who speak little English need help with tickets and medical needs, Matthews said. So translators – predominately Spanish- and French-speaking volunteers – are on hand.
“We started with Winthrop and the Rock Hill school district because they have a lot of language instructors already on their faculty and staff, so they were a great start,” she said.
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But getting ready for thousands of international visitors means more than finding translators, Matthews said.
Several hotels are partnering with the BMX World Championships, so the city helped organize a cultural sensitivity workshop for workers.
Matthews said international visitors may be used to different social norms. In some cultures, she said, people aren’t used to forming lines, and in others, personal space requirements are very different.
The workshops were a chance to prepare hotel workers, Matthews said.
LeAnn Lowrey, an international student tutor at Winthrop, helped organize the workshops.
“A lot of it is just having respect and being open minded to meeting new people,” she said. “And realizing that they may do things differently.”
Lowrey also owns a business, Cultural Transition Solutions, that offers cultural sensitivity workshops to businesses and international workers starting at a new company.
“It’s just a matter of being aware,” Lowrey said. “When you’re from somewhere else, the simplest of things from the American perspective can be difficult, like filling out a form.”
Winthrop students jumped in to help ease some of these difficulties, Lowrey said. Portuguese students helped translate a form into Portuguese, and other students are working in the translation tent.
Nicholas Arreste is from France and transferred to Winthrop University last year. He’s an intern for the city this summer and is working at the translation tent.
“To discover a new culture, a new country, I think it’s important to life,” Arreste said.
Matthews said having someone speak your language in a foreign country can be a big help.
“They’re very relieved,” she said. “You can see as they approach a desk in their minds they’re trying to figure out how to compose the right sentence and how to say what they need to say.”
Volunteers at the championships who speak another language are wearing stickers, Matthews said. A Spanish-speaking volunteer, for example, would have a sticker on that reads: “Yo hablo Español.”
“People walk up and they see that sticker and they realize that they can communicate with that person in their native language and they’re very relieved,” Matthews said.
Sylvia Nunez, a engineer with the city, said she learned Spanish in high school, and likes to volunteer as a translator whenever she gets the opportunity.
“I can see in their eyes that they’re just relieved that someone can understand their language,” Nunez said.
About 1,000 people are volunteering at the championships, Mayor Doug Echols said at the opening ceremonies Saturday.
“We love our volunteers,” Matthews said. “And it’s been a great response from the community to come out and support the event.”
Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068
UCI 2017 BMX World Championships
Races continue at the Novant Health BMX Supercross Track Friday and Saturday. Finals on Saturday will end with a fireworks show.
Visit www.rockhillscbmx.com for more information.