National Volunteering Week – May 14-21
“We all know that volunteering benefits Irish society, but volunteering also has a powerful effect on the volunteer. We recently carried out a survey with 500 active volunteers, 98 per cent of respondents found that volunteering makes them a happier person.” Anna Lee, Chairperson of Volunteer Ireland, (originally published in thejournal.ie)
Volunteering makes us happy. Or perhaps less grumpy. Or maybe able to complain faster! Most parents will volunteer with their children’s hobbies and activities. Typically their children cannot attend leisure activities outside of formal schooling without some form of parental assistance and it becomes a necessity, whether it is coaching the Under 12s, making cakes for the fund raisers or becoming bona fide leaders in the Boy Scouts. It doesn’t mean the politics are any the less or that events run on time, but there is bonding between families and sharing with children.
Sometimes volunteering is only for a season. Perhaps your child grows out of their sport or someone else is voted in to a new committee. It does help to spread the load, although of course there are professional volunteering parents and leaders who will stay with the organisation regardless of their children’s presence or departure.
Sometimes we volunteer because the cause is dear to our heart, someone has suffered or been helped by an organisation or perhaps the leader is inspirational and awakens interest and support.
And then sometimes we volunteer because the event itself is fun. We may have no connection other than the desire to walk mountains in Spain, drive cattle in Montana or cycle across the length of Ireland to fulfil a bucket list.
I looked at my activities around the week of the National Volunteering Week and found I ticked the boxes in most areas.
First up, my friend Sean Melly was cycling from Mizen Head to Malin Head to complete his own personal bucket list. So as not to miss the opportunity to do good at the same time, he decided to support his chosen charity, the Irish Hospice Foundation, along the way. To date he has raised more than €6000 for this cause and nearly killed himself in the attempt. I spoke with him every night and wrote his blog and listened to a human being being pushed to the edge of his physical and mental energies. Next time, he is doing it on a Harley!
He returned on the Friday night and I set off the following night on my own personal walk, joining the Pieta House Darkness into Light walk. This had been prompted by my having the every great honour to sit in on a filmed interview with the founder, Joan Freeman back in January. She is an amazing woman and totally inspirational. In that interview I learnt a terrible truth, that many of our suicides are opportunistic and therefore avoidable. If we can listen out for the words of despair we may be able to hear the tell tale warning phrases and help that person. The single biggest task facing someone who is looking into the abyss of suicide is to convince them that ‘this too will pass.’ Be it heart break, loss or financial destitution, it will pass and the world will be a better place with them in it, and not gone from the earth.
I walked in Tinahely with a large number of local friends and neighbours, about 100 in total. The morning at 4am was bitterly cold but dry and as we walked our brisk 5km the sun came up. Blue skies all the way, it could not be more beautiful and full of hope.
There is still time to donate to help me to my modest target of €250 if you have a few spare euro http://www.mycharity.ie/event/jillian_godsils_event/
Later that day a small group of local writers and I celebrated the launch of our book, a collection of short stories and poetry. We were graced by the presence of the Minister for the Arts and a large gathering of our family and friends. This was not volunteering of course but great fun.
On Sunday, I then joined the local Riding club for our Show Jumping Competition and Puissance. I am on the committee and while not riding currently for matters of financial austerity, I still enjoy working as part of team to make sure the day runs smoothly. I was in charge of making some sandwiches, selling raffle tickets and picking up the odd pole. Not terribly stressful and very enjoyable. My two children, teenagers and keen horsewomen, also helped out on the day. I watched, sun on back, exhausted, and happy to be there.
Then yesterday, to round off my week of volunteerism, I attended a photoshoot organised by entrepreneur George Nursey who is shooting 100 people to pose for a portrait to include on a poster of 100 faces. It will be sold to raise funds for CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young). I am not saying what age I am, but I think it will become obvious when the poster is finished. He is still looking for some ages:
So please contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org if you might be able to provide the right aged face!
Finally, on Monday night I attended choir. I am not sure if this falls into volunteerism or not but it certainly makes me happy. Singing releases endorphins, or happy drugs, and we are a very jolly bunch. We shall also be singing in the NCH in October with Paddy Cole so we had better practice lots more.
What a good week. Do I feel good? Yes siree… if a little tired!