I left work after 36 years as a public servant but wanted to use some of my skills in the voluntary sector. I approached the Volunteer Centre in Wicklow town with an idea of what I had in mind. They gave me some suggestions and put me in touch with 2 groups – Wicklow Cancer Support and the Wicklow Citizens Information Service. With Cancer Support I assist with driving patients to a hospital in Dublin, waiting while they get their treatment and bringing them home. I have met a range of people who are positive about what they are going through. They are so thankful that their transport needs are looked after so that they can concentrate on their treatment. I generally volunteer once a week which takes up between 3 and 5 hours of my time. Everybody has a story to tell and I get a great buzz from this.
The voluntary work with Wicklow Citizens Information Service is a bit more serious but no less rewarding. It is a very professional organisation with high standards. Information has to be accurate and up to date, whether it is on social welfare entitlements, how to apply for a driving licence or how to bring an animal on holidays. Clients are from every walk of life and from every corner of the planet. I’ve gone back to college to study to become an Information Provider and next year will study to enable me to do some advocacy work. The commitment is around 7 hours per week.
I was already a volunteer with Wicklow Tidy Towns. This gets you out in the fresh air, doing some planting, some weeding, some litter picking or some painting. There is real pleasure in seeing the Town look so well and getting thanked by passers-by. From April to August the volunteers go out 2 nights per week with absolutely no commitment.
Volunteering has given me a new lease of life. I’ve met new people and I can make a difference in their lives, even if the difference is tiny. It has probably made a bigger difference to me.