The Yorkshire Team: Rachel Moyes
"The minute I talk about volunteering, everyone says we just watch your face, my face just changes and I instantly relax because I just love it."
Anyone who meets Rachel Moyes, within seconds of talking to her, will know of her love and adoration for all things volunteering.
It is fitting therefore, when starting a series of features looking at people who truly epitomise the spirit of what it means to be a volunteer, to begin with Rachel.
Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to get involved with volunteering. For some it is a chance to experience once in a lifetime events in a unique way; to be a part of history. For others, it’s a chance to give back and, in a lot of cases, impact or even change lives through the work carried out.
For Rachel, all of these are true. But the main life that was changed through becoming an avid volunteer, was her own.
"I think I went for it because, I’d been through a lot in life. I’d gone through a divorce, I’d been on my own a lot and it gave me a chance to try and get out of my comfort zone and meet people and it was a bit of a confidence thing for me. And I just thought, right this opportunity has come up, my colleagues at work are applying – I will."
To talk to Rachel, you’d think she had been volunteering her entire life, however it was only five years ago, when the Tour de France came to Yorkshire, that Rachel first experienced the world of volunteering, having become a ‘Tour Maker’.
Like many though, she immediately caught the bug and became hooked.
"The Tour de France started it and then we found out we were going to have the Tour de Yorkshire and I thought, I’ve got to apply again! It just sort of went from there and I actually got to know the Welcome to Yorkshire team a lot more because I then put myself forward for the Rio Heroes Olympic Parade in Leeds. It was absolutely brilliant, it was the guys who do the puppeteering from Hebden Bridge, so we were holding the flags and I got the biggest bruise in the world and it was so, so windy but oh, it was amazing."
Since then Rachel has volunteered at a number of events up and down the country. However, it all started in her home county and Yorkshire, and more so the annual Tour de Yorkshire, are very close to the Bradfordian’s heart.
"People associate the Tour de Yorkshire with me now. They know that’s what I do and they know how much I love it. I’m from Yorkshire, I love showing Yorkshire off anyway but I think it’s a big thing for us as a county. This is the highlight of my year and I can’t wait for the UCI Road World Championships in September to do it all over again on a grander scale!"
This year’s Tour de Yorkshire was a milestone for the race, celebrating its five-year anniversary. Tour de France Race Director Christian Prudhomme said that the race had ‘come of age’ and it was an edition filled with a lot of key moments that would go down in history. The spectacular finish at Scarborough that saw waves and crosswinds add further challenge to an already tough stage, the moment four time Tour de France winner Chris Froome attacked on Otley Chevin and the moment Chris Lawless was crowned the first British winner of the race all come to mind. However, for Rachel her two fondest memories were that of volunteering and exactly what it means to her and the race.
"One of my favourite memories is having got to know the organising team and be a part of this wonderful legacy and one thing I’ll never forget, is being stood in Harrogate this year and seeing the caravan come past. In one of the cars I saw Jess the volunteer manager, and we both shouted each other and started waving and it’s things like that, it’s not just the cycling, it’s things like that and the friendships you build that I’ll remember forever."
This year saw another Leeds finish after an amazing Queen stage that started in Halifax before heading up hill and down dale to reach the Headrow in Leeds. But again, it wasn’t the cyclists that Rachel remembers the most.
"The atmosphere in Leeds was incredible and there was one member of our team, Malcolm, and I was watching him and he was giving it all the clapping and really getting the crowd going and I’ve actually personally messaged him because I thought he was absolutely amazing and that’s what it’s about. Yes there is crowd safety, but there’s that fan engagement as well and he was great. The Tour Makers were doing the Mexican wave at Leeds Finish too and it’s just those little things that I think we can bring more of that in to volunteering and make the event even more special."
This year sees the UCI Road World Championships descend on the count; coming to the UK for the first time in 37 years making it a once in a lifetime opportunity to get involved and Rachel can’t wait.
"I’ve been told that there are volunteers from all over the world but that’s what it’s all about, being a part of something special. What am I doing it for? I love my volunteering, I want to be a part of it, I want to help and I want to show off what Yorkshire has got. I’m looking forward to doing something different again, it’s completely different to my Monday to Friday 9-5 and this is what keeps me going. Rather than just doing TDY and Silverstone and it just finishing – I’ve got that goal of September to work towards and I think it’s great for us, it’s another Grand Départ and I can’t wait."
Talking of events being special and lives being changed through volunteering, Rachel even met her partner through volunteering and recalls the story of how her and boyfriend Chris met, extremely fondly.
"Last year I applied to be a volunteer at Silverstone and I got picked to work on both the Formula 1 and Moto GP events. I got given the biggest Grandstand, Becketts, and I had to go along to bomb and security training centre. It was so hot but it was in here that I noticed Chris and our eyes met, in a sweaty tent! So of course, if I hadn’t have done that last year then I wouldn’t have met Chris who it ends up, we’ve got this big hobby together: volunteering."
Looking back to five years ago and first signing up to be a volunteer, Rachel then smiled adding: "I guess things happen for a reason."
Volunteering truly is one of the most rewarding things that somebody can do and Rachel is beyond a testament to that. The person that volunteered five years ago, it can almost be said doesn’t exist anymore because of how much she has grown as a person and just how much she has achieved by getting out of her comfort zone and truly putting her all into some fantastic events.
"Volunteering has definitely made me more outgoing and confident. Confidence is number one because I was a bit meek and mild and it also helps with my job. I’m in retail so I have to be customer facing on a daily basis and you can use those tricks when you’re volunteering as well and I think just talking to people as you would in that role helps. But, for me, it’s definitely built confidence, I’ve got to meet loads of new people, I’ve met my partner Chris through it and I will always be in debt to Welcome to Yorkshire because it’s those guys that have got me to where I am now and I’ve said that all along."
Rachel may not be where she is today without the help and support offered at Welcome to Yorkshire but the same can be said for the volunteer programme and her involvement. Volunteering is one of those things in life that has a direct correlation between what you put into it and what you get out of it and Rachel’s return on investment is second to none.
What would she say to someone thinking of volunteering? That’s easy. Go for it.
"You’ve nothing to lose, just give it a go. Just give it a go that once and you’ll decide if it’s for you. There’s a lot of standing around, you’re on your feet, there’s all sorts of weathers you’re going to be working in but as long as your dressed appropriately and have comfy shoes it’s great fun! Just be prepared and expect the unexpected. It’s a team."
But what is it about volunteering that truly stands out? To Rachel it’s been lifechanging, and she thinks that it could be the same for everyone regardless of their background. They just need to take that first step and the power lies within them.
"It opens so many doors, the opportunities that it can open for you are absolutely massive but it’s up to you to open those doors as well and push yourself. And I didn’t know 14 months ago, I’d be working at Silverstone and look at what that’s done and the people I’ve met there so.. do it. There is nothing to lose."
In Rachel’s mind volunteering unlocks the doors but it’s up to the individual to open them. You never know what’s on the other side, until you take that first step through.
For more information about The Yorkshire Team, head here.