Shift in attitudes hailed as volunteering week begins


THE CONTRIBUTION of volunteering to society must be more accurately recorded, the chief executive of Volunteer Ireland has said.

Yvonne McKenna, speaking as National Volunteering Week began yesterday, said there had been an enormous shift in people’s attitudes towards volunteering over the past five years.

“Last year 11,000 people registered with Volunteer Ireland’s 22 centres across Ireland and carried out an incredible 425,000 hours of work during the year. Using the average industrial wage, this work equates to a value over €9.2 million. However that is the only data we have and is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Although a question on volunteering was included for the first time in the 2006 census, there was none in last year’s. The 2006 census found one in six adults volunteered regularly, and this was likely to have increased significantly in recent years.

The flagship event of the week will be a national canal clean-up, taking place across the State on Saturday.

Among those signing up to volunteer at a volunteering fair, just off Dublin’s O’Connell Street yesterday, was Stuart (who did not want to give his surname), a 28-year-old former heroin addict from Tallaght who was walking through town and saw the stalls. He signed up to help the Peter McVerry Trust and already helped with a soup run.

“I’m an ex-addict and I’ve been clean the past three years. I’ve had a bad past, was involved in criminal activity. I used to rob. I used to rob my mam even, and now I like to help. I like giving back. I feel good about myself.”

The fair included about 10 stalls at the corner of North Earl Street and O’Connell Street, with information about registering with Volunteer Ireland – which aims to match potential volunteers’ skills with a suitable nonprofit organisation – and other organisations.

Among them were mental health support site; Rainbow 13+, a social club for young people with special needs; Fighting Words, a creative writing centre in Dublin’s north inner city; and Friends of the Elderly.

John Cotterell, manager of the Dublin City North Volunteer Centre, said there was a particular need in his area for people willing to volunteer in youth clubs.

“It also seems to be more difficult to get people to volunteer during the day, and we need people for visiting older people, visiting people in hospital.”