Blink once, blink twice – and half of 2019 has passed. When I opened my emails on Monday morning I had to rub my eyes to be sure it was really the 1st of July. I first blamed the lack of coffee as I could hardly believe we have reached the year’s half way mark already. The again, it has been such busy 6 months, it’s no surprise time has just flown by.
Someone recently reminded me of the importance of taking some time out to sit back and reflect. So I thought while I’m sipping my coffee, I share a little reflection on all that we have been up to so far in 2019.
Volunteering was a hot topic at the start of the year. The Department of Rural and Community Development had published a “Call for Input” in February to inform and seek views from stakeholders on the new National Volunteering Strategy. Along with our colleagues from the national Volunteer Centre Network and Volunteer Ireland, we facilitated a number of conversations, gathered feedback and comments and submitted an input document to the Department. This is really important and timely work since the last government policy on volunteering was published back in 2001.
Giving advice and information on volunteering lies at the core of what we do and 1749 people have registered with the Volunteer Centre so far in 2019 to find out more about and search for volunteering opportunities. Our Placement Team, consisting of Placement Officer Kristin, Placement and Outreach Officer Lucy and our Placement Volunteers Aidan, Christy, Sharon and Paul, processed hundreds of volunteer applications and checked-in with everyone to make sure they’re getting a good experience. That also meant 332 people have started volunteering, that’s a stunning 27,828 hrs of volunteering they have done in the first have of 2019. Find out more about how you can volunteer, too.
Our Volunteer Information evening are as popular as ever and of you joined us to hear from and chat to a number of organisations and their volunteer programmes. You told us you like the opportunity to chat to groups one-to-one, so we also organised an event for people who are in Dublin to learn English (“Volunteering While Learning English) to find out what options are out there and to meet other like-minded people. Speaking of which, the “Volunteering for the Environment” event, which we ran for the first, was another great opportunity to meet groups that are active on environmental issues who are looking for volunteers, and to find a new buddy to go volunteering with.
National Volunteering Week is a big date in our annual calendar and this year, it was all about YOU. National Volunteering Week is celebrated all over Ireland and the theme this year was set around the definition of volunteering. So we asked you to share your story to tell us about who you are as a volunteer, what you do and how it has influenced you. Thanks to everyone who shared their story with us, we loved to hear about your experience.If you haven’t done so yet, you can read some of the lovely stories that were shared with us here.
During the week we ran a number of events to celebrate volunteering and meet existing and new volunteers, including a pop-up at a Direct Provision Centre and a big international corporate, our Volunteer Information Evening and our Open Day with home-baked delights, information on volunteering and wellbeing and a free Thai-Chi class to ease that busy volunteer mind.
A big part of our work is also to provide advice and training we provide to Volunteer Involving Organisations, which is an ongoing service throughout the year provided by our Organisation Support Officer Frances and Organisation Support Volunteers Julie, Iris and Deniz. On top of that we ran two Volunteer Manager Network Meetings (they like to chat, too!), our regular Volunteer Leadership Training and a Training course on making volunteer programmes more diverse.
And let’s not forget the Garda Vetting Service we provide for our registered organisations. Our Garda Vetting team (Jenny and Rita) has already processed 2180 applications for 205 organisations and ran a number of training courses and webinars for Garda Vetting Officers. That’s a whole lot of forms.
Another highlight was the completion of our European “Get Connected – Volunteering and Shared Values” project. The project took a closer look at the impact volunteering can have on people’s individual and shared European values. A big goal of the project was to document the participating volunteers’ journeys and experiences, and as a result, you can find lot of stories, interviews, photos and videos on our project website. In March, we travelled to Brussels to meet the project partners from Croatia, Belgium and Scotland for a final catch-up, but most of all to join them in their opening of the last leg of our European Roadshow and to launch our project publications. Have a look at our project website for more information and the publications.
We also started a working on two exciting projects. The first is called “The Doorway Initiative” and focuses on facilitating residents from the Balseskin Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers and Refugees to volunteer at events around Dublin, including Barnardo’s Easter Egg Hunt in April and the Dublin LGTB+ Pride at the end of June.
The other project focuses on volunteering and well-being. Alongside some of the other Volunteer Centres and Volunteer Ireland, we are conducting research on the relationship between well-being and volunteering, with the support of the National Lottery Funding.
We are still looking for participants. Anyone over the age of 18 can participate, and the programme would be particularly of benefit to those who are feeling isolated, vulnerable, disadvantaged or have symptoms of depression and anxiety. You can find more about the project here.
Finally, while we were busy with all of the above, we had a number of staff changes here in the office. You will probably have have met or heard from our new team members by now, but here they are again so you can put a face to the names:
So, there you have it, and that’s only some of the stuff we got up to. And here I thought reflecting would calm the mind – quite the opposite. Looking at all that we have already achieved this year, I am now buzzing with excitement for the next 6 months to come. No need for another coffee.
Franzi O’Donnell is Acting Manager of Dublin City Volunteer Centre.