A recent survey conducted by Volunteer Ireland found that 70% of the Irish population believes that Ireland is better country to live in thanks to volunteers. So this National Volunteering Week, we are recognising all those who volunteer and make a difference in their community. If you have not directly benefitted by the work of volunteers, you will certainly know someone who has. We spoke with eight incredible volunteer-involving organisations in Ireland and asked them how volunteers are helping them make a difference. So if you’re among the 30% of the population who aren’t sure if Ireland is a better place because of volunteers – look no further for proof.
1. Helping to relieve poverty across Ireland
“The Society of St Vincent de Paul is the largest volunteer-led charitable organisation in Ireland. It has almost 11,000 volunteer members who help provide a wide range of services. Home visitation to families, carried out in strict confidence, is the core work of the Society and carried out by its volunteers. SVP volunteers make approximately 8,000 visits to homes each week.
Other aspects of the Society’s work in which volunteers are involved include operating charity shops; hostels; daycare centres; holiday centres and housing schemes. exam revision classes, after-school activities, homework clubs, breakfast clubs and visiting hospitals and prisons. This voluntary effort is essential to enable the Society to achieve its core objective of relieving poverty.”
St. Vincent de Paul
2. Bringing communities together through sport
“The GAA has approximately 650,000 members whose involvement spans playing, administration, coaching, mentoring, fundraising, health and well being activity and of course supporting in addition to a host of other activity.
The percentage of our membership who engage in these types of activities on a voluntary basis would be in high nineties and only excludes a limited full time staff team required to ensure the efficient functioning of such a vast organisation.
More than any other single element it is our voluntary and amateur ethos - including our top level players - that binds the association together and without it the GAA would not resemble the organisation it is today.”
Alan Milton, Head of GAA Media Relations
3. Supporting those are homeless or at risk of losing their homes across Ireland
Focus Ireland said that last year there were 20 different volunteer roles identified throughout the organisation and these diverse roles included activities with customers such as befriending, cookery, drama and literacy tutors, career guidance and also roles as schools ambassadors, gardeners, archivists and administrators. Over the 12 month period in 2013, Focus Ireland had 112 long term volunteers committed to roles with the charity providing additional assistance and expertise to employees and customers and a further 460 volunteers assisting in Focus Ireland’s off events and fundraising activities.
“We have a long and proud tradition of volunteerism since our Focus Ireland was first established by Sr Stanislaus Kennedy in 1985 after she worked with women who were homeless in Dublin. The spirit of volunteerism remains a strong tradition in Focus Ireland and we recognise its value in both providing us with new ideas and perspectives, and much needed practical support. Our volunteer programme encouraging civic engagement within the community and helps Focus Ireland in our efforts to reduce prejudices and breakdown stereotypes that exist about people who are homeless. “
Sara Barnes, HR Volunteer Co-Ordinater, Focus Ireland
4.Helping people with intellectual disabilities develop both physically and emotionally
“Special Olympics Ireland is very proud of every one of our 27,000 volunteers who assist our 10,000 athletes at events, competitions and in 385 clubs across the island of Ireland. For our Ireland Games – which take place in Limerick this June – we will have 3,000 volunteers assisting the 1,500 athletes competing. For many of these volunteers this isn’t the first time they have signed up to help at one of our events. It is truly amazing when you think that all our volunteers can expect is a wonderful experience.”
Peter O’Brien, Director of Volunteers and Training, Special Olympics Ireland
5. Helping young people reach their full potential
“Volunteerism is the life blood of Foróige – simply put, without our amazing volunteers, we wouldn’t have an organisation. We work with 5,500 awe-inspiring people who give their time, talents and dedication to volunteering with Foróige to help improve the lives of the more than 50,000 young people up and down the country we engage with. They are building a better Ireland, one community at a time.
“Dedicated volunteers are essential to the ongoing success of our programs and we offer many volunteer opportunities in our clubs and projects, in our Garda Youth Diversion Projects, in our Big Brother, Big Sister mentoring programme and much, much more.”
Foróige CEO, Seán Campbell
6. Providing support to children across Ireland who need it most
“Barnardos volunteers play a key part in the delivery of our services, in our shops and in providing office support and raising funds. We are deeply grateful for their commitment to helping Barnardos achieve better outcomes for children. Without their dedication and generosity, we could not do the work we do.
Barnardos benefit from the involvement of 210 volunteers within our services and shops, and more than 300 occasional volunteers who supported the organisation with fundraising activities. “ Barnardos
7. Helping to make Ireland the best place in the world in which to grow older
Age Action has over 3,800 volunteers on our books…Our volunteers are the backbone of the organisation – we would only be able to do a fraction of the work we do, without our volunteers. Their work with Age Action ranges from helping teach an older person how to use a computer to doing home visitations and DIY jobs to enable older people continue to live independently in their own homes. Our Getting Started (computer training courses) and Care and Repair (home visitation/DIY) programmes are two of the busiest programmes for volunteers.
Last year 289,201 people used our services, read our publications, visited our website or shop or helped with fundraising. Our Care and Repair team carried out 22,670 jobs, visits and telephone contacts with older people. Our Getting Started team trained 3,736 older people how to use computers and the internet. Certainly the majority of those older people whose lives were improved as a result of their contact with Age Action, benefited because of the efforts of our volunteers.”
Eamon Timmins, Age Action’s Head of Advocacy and Communications.
8. Helping to support cancer patients and fund the fight against cancer
Receiving less than 5 per cent of income from government funding, the Irish Cancer Society relies on public support through donations and volunteering to deliver vital services.
“We are greatly appreciative of the tireless work of our thousands of volunteers across the country who selflessly give their time and expertise to helping the Society to provide support for cancer patients. Volunteers who work with the Society do so across a wide range of services and fundraising campaigns.
They work in the Society’s Daffodil Centres providing information and care to cancer patients in hospitals, they help deliver the Care to Drive service by driving patients to and from chemotherapy treatment and they are out in communities educating the public around reducing their risk of cancer. Our volunteers are also raising vital funds by working in Irish Cancer Society shops and fundraising through initiatives such as Daffodil Day and Relay For Life so that the Society can continue to provide free cancer services and fund world-class cancer research.
Many of our services depend on volunteers and these people deserve the deepest gratitude of the Irish Cancer Society and the wider society."
John McCormack, CEO of the Irish Cancer Society