NIAMH RAFTER TALKS TO THREE WEXFORD VOLUNTEERS WHO HAVE SELFLESSLY DEDICATED THEIR TIME TO THE COMMUNITY
NOWADAYS, we all know far too much about the recession and money-troubles that people have, be it here in Wexford or on a wider scale. Yet here, in our local community, we find everyday examples of how volunteering, no matter how big or small a role you play, can be both rewarding and enjoyable. I spoke to some locals who give up their time to give service to the community, and this is what they had to say.
Deirdre Kent is a volunteer with the Wexford branch of the Order of Malta, a completely voluntary organisation that provides a variety of services to locals who require assistance. This can vary from first aid at a sports event, to emergency call outs, helping out a vehicle in difficulty or transporting hospital patients and staff when all else fails. Deirdre is the 1st Officer and is in charge of providing these services, as well as much more to our local community, completely voluntarily. She receives little rewards for her efforts. ' You have to be mad to be a volunteer, but it gets under your skin and I find it so rewarding!', she says. The Order of Malta has no funding at all and relies solely on donations from the general public as well as fees from public demonstrations,. The volunteers receive none of this, but recently were delighted to officially purchase their own premises. They give up many hours and the 20 active members are on call 24/7. Be it to assist the elderly during the difficult weather conditions, or transport hospital staff and patients, during the big freeze, Deirdre and the gang were going non stop for six days straight! The Order Of Malta cover large events like Oxegen, but she finds it rewarding knowing that she does her best to help people in need. 'Seeing the relief on somebody's face when you tell them it's going to be ok is the most rewarding thing in the world.'
Being a volunteer for a staggering 38 years, with Deirdre Kent we can be assured that our local community is in good hands. ' The work is so unpredictable, and yes it's demanding but the sense of achievement you get is incomparable to anything else. I joined because of family connections, but now each and every one of us is like a family. I would encourage everyone to give it a try!' For donations contact any Order member of the HQ on the top of St. John's road.
Another example of how volunteers can give back to the community is by following Betty Groves', Betty Ryan's and Pam Burke's example of spending a couple of hours a week in a local charity shop. These three women volunteer in Fred's Fashions in town on a regular basis. Each have various jobs to attend to around the shop e.g. cleaning, pricing brick n' brack or serving customers on the till. 'It's a good cause, and we all enjoy helping out here. It gives us a chance to get out and meet people from around the area, all for charity!' they all agree. Pam has volunteered in the shop for 2 years while Betty and Betty have been there for what was described as 'a very long time!'.
There are church gate collections twice a year in aid of Fred's Fashions, but donations are most welcome, to contribute towards the running of the shop. 'Volunteers receive little recognition and publicity for their work but that's not what its all about. Its as much for you as it is for the people you help out. You feel that your doing something good and worthwhile, that your making the effort. No matter how little time you have to give, its always appreciated.' People who wish to get involved in such work can put their name down in the shop, located in Selskar, Wexford Town. Donations can be made to Lillian Clowery-the manager or else call 053 9123440 (Shop Number).
Another local volunteer, fellow Loreto student of mine, Gemma Carroll is a 6th year who has been doing work with the Special Olympics organisation for 3 years, since 4th year. Having to be 16 to join, Gemma was impatient but once she had her chance she was eager to get going. She became involved through the school and still enjoys the time she spends there very much. 'We meet every Saturday, and do various activities with the kids. It can range from tennis to swimming and basketball to gymnastics.' There are around 25 members and 25 volunteers. The members range in age from 6-32. Gemma recruits new volunteers in the school and plays a big role in organisation. 'The organisation itself means a lot to me, but it isn't just that, it's like a second family. The little things we take for granted like being able to hit a tennis ball or even just go down town by ourselves, I mean it's different for them. But the fact that you get to be there and experience the joy of watching them grow and develop right in front of you is an amazing feeling.' Being involved in Special Olympics for Gemma obviously means a lot to her, and her interest goes beyond this. Doing 4th year work experience in a similar area made her realise how rewarding working with children with special needs can be. Doing so on a voluntary basis in Special Olympics must be even greater so. Volunteers are needed so if you think its for you, you can contact Gemma or any other Special Olympics volunteer.