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Volunteer work is a win-win for everyone involved

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Donncha Foley at the Galway Volunteer Centre.

Volunteering is good for you – and that’s no marketing spin! Not alone does it improve your employability prospects, but it is also good for your mental health, and the community.

When Volunteer Galway started up 10 years ago, the benefits were seen as more one-sided, but now it is certainly viewed as a win-win situation for all.

“It’s not about ‘are you suitable for the organisation’, but ‘is the organisation suitable for you’ – we advise that you pick something that you enjoy doing; the volunteer will stay for longer in those cases,” says Donncha Foley, Volunteer Galway’s Development Manager.

“The main reasons people come in is that they want to do good, to help others who are less fortunate.

“We have a lot of people who are just a day or two in Galway and want to get involved – it’s how you meet people, and become part of the community. It’s a hard place to leave, and they want to start putting roots down.”

Donncha should know, as the Tralee-native used to visit the city while studying in Dublin, but hated leaving. He eventually stayed for good 21 years ago, and has worked with the Galway Traveller Movement, and other community groups in the meantime, before starting with Volunteer Galway when it opened its doors nearly 10 years ago.

“In Galway, there are so many new people coming in, and volunteering is a good way to meet neighbours and feel part of the community. Often, it is only when you are giving something back that you get that connection. We also have people who are interested in building on their skills, that they have been studying and want to apply what they have learned. Some people will have religious reasons for doing it, and some will just have free time.”

Surprisingly, the vast majority of those that contact them are under the age of 35.

“Before I started here, I was involved in trying to develop a volunteer centre, and I remember organisations saying that it was very hard to get volunteers, because they didn’t know how to connect with young people,” he adds.

“About 60% of people who use our service have never volunteered before – and the main reasons they use it is because they can easily find us online and can browse anonymously.

“The traditional way of volunteer recruitment was tapping someone on the shoulder and asking would they help. It was unfair on the person because how do you say no? This way people are saying yes, rather than no.”

Volunteer Galway is funded by the Department of the Environment and Galway City Council, and is one of 22 such centres around the country.

“It is all about putting people who want to get involved in the community in touch with organisations that look for people to help,” Donncha says.

“On behalf of non-profit community organisations, we advertise volunteer roles, similar to a recruitment agency. Someone can walk off the street or browse our website, and see what’s available or needed at a particular moment.”

At any one time, there are over 100 roles to be filled; currently the Galway Theatre Festival (April29-May7) is looking for volunteers; Cope Galway is looking for those with an interest in gardening, who would work in one of their houses for the homeless; and one of most popular roles, on an on-going basis, is teaching IT skills to the older generation.

“Volunteering isn’t just standing on the street shaking a bucket – some people have PR and finance skills, and you would wonder is that the best use of their skills,” Donncha adds.

“We had a person coming in here looking to work with animals, and we were able to put her in touch with Madra – she had a huge amount of PR and marketing skills, and took on that role for them.”

But apart from the obvious personal benefits that come from giving back to the community, volunteering can also prove extremely beneficial in one’s career progression.

“While the economy is improving, it can still be hard to get work but, by volunteering, you can go into interviews with real life experience, rather than something you read in a book – and it shows that you can work on your own initiative,” Donncha said.

“One of the ladies who works here volunteered with us, which put her at an advantage when it came to the interviews.”

In fact, he says that volunteer office admin roles are so popular, that they rarely stay long on the notice board, due to the high level of interest. And, because there could be 20-30 people applying for the one role, and organisations will obviously want the best candidate, they seek CVs to be submitted and hold interviews – which is another step towards gaining paid employment.

In the past 10 years, Volunteer Galway has dealt with 11,000 potential volunteers, and has worked with close to 600 organisations – in 2015, there were at least 250 successful placements, that they know of.

“The two ways people find us is googling ‘volunteer in Galway’ and referrals from other people, which we are delighted about because it means people are talking about us and must be saying good things,” he says.

“The vast majority that come in say they’d like to volunteer, but don’t know what they can do or what’s out there. They register to use the service, which gives us an idea about them such as why they want to volunteer and do they have skills already or do they want to learn new ones. We meet with about 300 potential volunteers per year, and have short meetings with them – it’s almost like a career guidance for volunteers. We have over 100 roles on our website, so we can suggest roles, and it’s up to them then to take it from there.”

Volunteer Galway sees itself as simply a ‘go-between’, and nobody is under any obligation to take part straight away.

“If you use our service, we don’t expect you to volunteer tomorrow, some people like to see what’s there and keep an eye out; we send out monthly updates to those registered with us, and they come to us in their own time.”

One of the most rewarding projects has been the ‘Flourish’ project, for which Volunteer Galway received funding to work with those recovering from mental health challenges.

“Volunteering is a nice way of getting back into the community in the shallow end, rather than taking up a 9-5 job – and it’s also good for self-esteem and self-confidence.

“We have worked with about 60 people from psychiatric units and services around the county, and half of those started volunteering and came back to say it had huge impact on their lives. It’s that feeling you get when you’re doing something worthwhile because you want to be there.

“We want to establish Galway as a centre of community excellence, which means people who come into these organisations have the passion to help others, and are able to access the skills to do it to their best ability.”

With this in mind, funding has also been availed of to provide ‘volunteer management’ for the non-profit organisations they help, which can involve human resources, business, marketing, and financial skills.

■ If you would like to volunteer your time to help others (and yourself), drop into the Volunteer Galway offices at 27 William Street West in Galway City, give them a call (091) 581727, or visit their website.

 

CITY TRIBUNE

Cycleway trial may be heading for courts

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Galway healthcare workers show their support for the proposed Salthill cycleway.

Plans for a temporary cycle lane in Salthill may ultimately be decided by the High Court.

Residents directly impacted by the project are weighing-up the possibility of taking a Judicial Review if Galway City Council proceeds as planned.

They cite a recent case where the High Court halted Dublin City Council plans for a two-way cycle lane at Strand Road in Sandymount.

Concerned residents in Poolnarooma West and Kingston Road are contemplating launching a Judicial Review into Galway City Council’s decision making.

They argue that – just like in the Sandymount example – the proposed temporary cycle lane should not proceed without an Environmental Impact Assessment and an Appropriate Assessment under the Habitats Directive. One reason is because it is in an SAC, Special Area of Conservation.

Gráinne McMahon of Pollnarooma Residents Association, and John Glynn of Kingston, have written to city councillors arguing that the cycle lane cannot proceed without an EIA and AA screening.

They said it needs to go through a proper planning application process with full screening and statutory public consultation, and not be introduced as a ‘traffic calming measure’ under section 38 of the Road Traffic Act.

Ironically, in July of last year, officials at City Hall had been making the same argument in correspondence to councillors before they voted on the Notice of Motion in September.

In his letter to councillors last Summer, Uinsinn Finn Acting Director of Services for Transport at Galway City Council, said: “A two-way temporary cycleway cannot be accommodated along the Salthill Promenade as to proceed without going through a planning consent process and undertaking environmental screening would be in contravention of the statutory provisions of the Planning and Development Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council looks to develop ‘outdoor museum’ to focus on Galway’s waterways

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New focus...Galway’s waterways.

Consultants will be hired by Galway City Council to develop an “outdoor museum experience” to “tell the story of the waterways of Galway”.

Tender documents estimate the project will cost between €220,000 and €250,000.

It is part of the Fáilte Ireland funded Tourism Destination Towns initiative to help tourist towns and cities offer more attractions to visitors.

The consultants will be asked to devise an outdoor museum that “tells the story of” the city’s waterways.

“The variety of water in Galway City Centre – the rushing river, still and reflective canals, historic mills and locks, and tidal Galway Bay – create a diversity of sights, sounds, smells and textures which enrich Galway for visitors and locals alike,” the tender said.

This “new attraction”, it said, will be located along walking and cycling routes leading from the Spanish Arch area along the River towards Woodquay, along the Canal to NUIG and along the Claddagh to Salthill.

“The outdoor attraction should assist in managing visitor flow by drawing visitors from the crowded areas of Shop Street, Quay Street and the Spanish Arch and dispersing visitors to other attractions such as Galway’s Westend, NUIG, Salthill and Woodquay,” according to the plan.

The waterways will be used to “tell an interesting and compelling story on the development of Galway”.

“By adding a new experience along the route we have an opportunity to increase visitor satisfaction levels by bringing the past and present to life so that it resonates with visitors, and gets them thinking, talking and engaging,” the plan said.

It is envisaged that the contractor will tell the story of Galway, including its waterways, “their development, industrial heritage and how they help shape modern Galway”.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Garda concern blow for cycleway plans

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Salthill Prom...D-Day for cycleway plans. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

The city’s emergency services have raised ‘significant concerns’ over both the proposals under consideration for the Salthill temporary cycleway.

The Galway City Tribune understands that An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and Fire Service raised these concerns at a meeting with city officials on Monday – and were due to lodge an objection to the proposals ahead of today’s (Friday) public consultation deadline.

According to sources, the greatest disquiet is over increased emergency response times – all three services believe emergency vehicles will be delayed under both plans.

This comes as it was revealed that cycling campaigners have been out in force to back the plan – in excess of 1,000 submissions were received by the Council’s Transport Department in the first week of the consultation process.

Almost €1 million was allocated by Government this week to fund the temporary lane which is set to be in place from March to September – provided it gets the final go-ahead from the Council.

The two proposals include Option 1, which would make way for one-way vehicular traffic along the R336 from Grattan Road Junction to the Barna Road Junction; and Option 2 which would maintain two-way vehicular traffic along the R336 as far as the Pollnarooma West Junction, dropping to one inbound lane from there as far as the Barna Road.

A spokesperson for Gardaí in Salthill told this newspaper that while there was no opposition to the rollout of cycle lanes in general, both plans currently under consideration would limit their service.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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