Volunteer Ireland welcomes surge in citizens keen to make that difference
THE CHARITY CRUNCH:“It’s not surprising that the numbers are going up. It’s a well-known fact that in times of recession, volunteer numbers go up,” says Phil Boughton, communications officer with Volunteer Ireland.
The organisation has 22 regional centres around the country. This year alone, there have been more than 14,800 additional volunteers registering with the organisation. In 2008, that figure was 7,545.
While some people go directly to organisations such as Focus Ireland, Simon or St Vincent de Paul to offer help, others go through Volunteer Ireland.
“They come to us, because they know they want to help, but they don’t know in what role, or for what cause. We can help match people’s skills and interest to an organisation that would suit them.”
The cohort with the biggest rise in applications are those in the 18-25 age bracket.
“One area we have really seen an increase in is that of skilled volunteers, people who have expertise in certain areas. For instance, we had senior executives working on boards of charities, people with PR backgrounds helping out with publicity, graduates helping out with social media and marketing.”
Every year, there are noticeable trends in which areas volunteers are interested in. This year, the top three have been: arts, culture and media; health and disability; and youth and children. Last year, they were: practical work; older people; and befriending. In 2010, they were: youth and children; education and literacy; and health and disability.
There are more than 15,000 community and charity organisations in the country. And all of them rely on volunteers to some extent.
Each year, January sees a spike in numbers registering with such groups, possibly as a result of those new year resolutions.
Boughton believes people are motivated to do it because it makes them “feel happier”.
“The feel-good factor can’t be overstated. And there is no age limit.”
Age does not matter
Betty Wall who lives in Sutton, Co Dublin, and who recently won a Volunteer of the Year Award, is proof of the fact that age does not matter when it comes to giving of your time.
Wall is 80. For the last 46 years, she has volunteered with the Variety Club Children’s Charity, which helps sick, disabled and poor children.
“I do it because there are so many children who need things,” she explains.
Along with others at Variety, Wall runs fundraising events. “I once had the cheek to ask Michael Flatley to come to one of our balls. He came, and we raised €90,000 that night.”
Of all her many years of working for Variety, Wall’s proudest memory is of bringing Liberty Swings into Ireland. She and her late husband, Kevin, first saw them on a holiday in New Zealand.