In April each year Whitehorse’s Volunteer of the Year award is handed out. This year’s recipient, Afan Jones, brought together his passions for orienteering and volunteerism in the work he was honoured for. The Yukon Orienteering Association hosted the 2018 North American Orienteering Championships in August 2018 (NAOC2018). Jones served as race director for the event.

“The host committee was involved in organizing a series of eight daily competitions at eight separate sites between Whitehorse and Carcross with up to 15 different courses per day,” Jones explained. “Bussing, accommodation and oversight by the International Orienteering Federation all had to be considered. My role as race director was to coordinate the land use, mapping, course setting and controlling of all NAOC2018 events.

“The role also involved assisting with the Canadian Championship events which took place on August 23-24, 2018. That entailed visiting all control sites – a much more enviable volunteer role than others which spent much more time at a computer screen.”

Jones was driven to give so much of his time to the event by his lifelong commitment to, and passion for orienteering. “The lure of orienteering for me comes from the combination of physical exercise with a mental map puzzle- figuring out the best route between controls. I was never much of a runner so it was good to have a mental distraction,” he said. “As orienteering participants, we all benefit from events staged around the globe. This organizing role provided an opportunity to give back.”  

He adds that the dedication and professionalism of many individuals within the Yukon Orienteering Association and the Canadian orienteering community provided additional motivation to step forward. “We all shared the goal to provide for both a high-level orienteering competition and future recreational opportunities,” he said.

Jones wants to make sure to credit all those he worked with on NAOC2018. “When I received the city volunteer award at the April 18 ceremony I dedicated it to the whole NAOC2018 organizing committee,” he explains, “I was one cog in that committee. I also said I was deeply humbled to stand beside other nominees from the care and support agencies in Whitehorse whose volunteerism is so important to the fabric of the city and community.”

He also has some advice for others interested in getting more deeply involved in volunteerism. “You need to be fully committed to the cause – I found I needed a kind of a blind passion for the role!”