Meeting the Queen
by Emma Eastwood, JCI UK National President
When JCI UK was announced as a recipient of the queens award for volunteering last year, 2012 JCI UK President Solveig Malvik and I were aware that we were likely to receive an invitation to the palace to meet the Queen. I have to admit that it always seemed a little unbelievable and even now that it has happened, if I didn’t have the picture I would still have my doubts that it actually occurred. This date was due to be set some time in late spring so imagine our shock when an email arrived informing us that we were invited to attend an event on the 29th May at St James Palace…..the same day as the opening ceremony of our European Conference when we’d both be in Monaco. This is when JCI membership really pays off, we never considered that we’d have to pick which event to attend! We only planned to work out how to do both!
So this is what led to Solveig and I leaving Monaco on the morning of the 29th May at 5.30 AM to get a taxi to the airport in Nice and catch a 7.30 AM flight to Heathrow for what is my shortest ever visit to a city but also the most memorable by far. We tried to contain the nerves and excitement on our journey but at times we could barely talk! Once in London we headed to truly British tea shop and treated ourselves to cakes and tea – well, it would have been rude not to and we needed plenty of energy for curtsying! We then walked over to St James Palace in time to see the changing of the guard and mingle with some of the guests waiting in line to go in.
After leaving our bags and mobile phones we were ushered up a staircase and into a grand reception room where we accepted glasses of bubbly to calm our nerves. We had the great fortune to meet some amazing volunteers and staff from other organisations that were recipients of an award for volunteering. This was a really inspirational experience and we felt privileged to be amongst such fantastic company.
After about half an hour we were guided towards a doorway where a man asked for our name cards. Before I could realise what was happening the Queen appeared in sight on the other side of the door next to the Duke of Edinburgh. Within seconds my name was announced and I was standing before the Queen curtsying and saying hello to a woman with the kindest eyes and warmest smile. I beamed from ear to ear as I moved along the line to be presented to the Duke of Edinburgh! He smiled and asked me where I was from and where the organisation was based. They both seemed to be genuinely enjoying the event despite the fact that they had to stand and meet so many people.
We were then into the next room to carry on mingling with guests and we did not know what had hit us! We laughed and almost cried and had to take a few moments to compose ourselves. Meeting the Queen in behalf of every member of JCI UK was the proudest moment on my life!!! During national volunteers week it is a real honour to be national president for such a fantastic organisation. Just as the Queen honours and respects volunteer groups with her recognition of their hard work, so must we respect every volunteer across the country who gives up his and her free time to make the world a better place. Happy volunteers week everyone.
Read my next blog to find out what happened next and whether I managed to make it back for the opening ceremony!
Categorised in: Charity
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