When I first read about this year’s National Volunteering Week theme ”Volunteering Builds Better Communities”, I immediately thought about a project that we are running this year here at the Volunteer Centre in conjunction with 3 partner organisations from across Europe, the “Get Connected – Volunteering and Shared Values” project.
For the “Get Connected” project, we invited people for a series of “Conversation Salons”, where they discussed topics like community spirit and what issues in the community volunteering could potentially address.
Across the board, people brought up a lack of community spirit or at least, they said they felt that there was a lack of opportunities to find out about what is going on in their community, how they could get involved, how they could connect to people in their neighbourhood. At the same time, many of the participants at these events thought that many issues arising in the area where they lived, such as rubbish on the street, isolation of older people, crime and the lack of support between neighbours, could all be addressed by community initiatives and volunteering. The key driver for acting on these issues through volunteering for people was the wish to connect with their community and the need to do so in order to make the positive impact happen.
This can be especially true for those people who have only recently moved to the city, people that feel isolated due to mental health issues, age or social isolation say as single parents.
Not surprisingly, many people that responded to our national annual survey on volunteering over the last few years told us that, through their volunteering activity, they met new people, build new social networks, and felt that they were making a meaningful contribution.
Now, if you are looking to connect more with your community, to make it a place where people are in touch with each other, where people care about the area that they live in; if you are looking to take action on issues close to your heart and therefore build an overall stronger and more welcoming community, you might find that volunteering offers you undiscovered opportunities to become active on something important to you, something that’s close to your values, something that forms part of your identity.
So this National Volunteering Week, why not reach out to people around you to see how you can connect with them, to make your community a better place to be? You could start with dropping in to an elderly neighbour, helping someone to cut their grass, or get involved in the local tidy town or canal clean up group. Or you could teach computer skills to older people, help newcomers in Dublin with their English, help provide a meal to a person experiencing homelessness or volunteer with a local youth club to act as positive role model for young people in your area. The opportunities are endless.
Still looking for ideas?
You can always get in touch with us here at the Volunteer Centre. We can help with deciding where to start and we can connect you with groups that align with your interests and values or those are operating in your local area.
What are you waiting for? Go on, start volunteering and get connected!
Written by Franzi Fehr, Outreach and Placement Officer at DCVC.