Volunteer Stories Blog

Volunteer Stories Blog

Volunteer Stories Blog

Check out all of the great student stories:

  • The Failte Refugees Society- Aidan Harte (Auditor of the NUIG Fáilte Refugees Society)
  • The Risk to Gender Equality- Conor Pope (Former Volunteer with EIL in Thailand)
  • Building a Connection- Aisling Miller (Former Volunteer with Nurture Africa)
  • What Volunteering means to me- Laura Ledger (Volunteer with ALIVE)
  • My ALIVE experience- Shane Gaughan (Volunteer with ALIVE)

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"The Fáilte Refugees Society" by Aidan Harte

As a response to the ongoing global refugee crisis, students at NUIG are have started the Galway branch of the nascent ‘Fáilte Refugees’ Campaign. The nationwide campaign aims to increase public awareness regarding the current global refugee crisis, and to empower Irish students to become successful agents of change within their communities. It also hopes to lobby the Irish Government to uphold its promise of accepting at least 4,000 refugees, along with making every effort to restrict the devastating international arms trade. Ultimately, the campaign wishes to welcome refugees in to every Irish community with dignity, and to support their successful integration in to Irish society.

The Fáilte Refugees Society was launched on Societies’ Day in January, and in February collaborated with ALIVE and the National Youth Council of Ireland on the workshop “Migration, Refuge and the Sustainable Development Goals”.  Future guest speaker events will be held throughout semester two, and these will serve to inform volunteers about significant issues, along with providing an opportunity to share ideas. Through effective planning, learning and organising, volunteers will become effective agents of change. The Society will then proceed to broaden our efforts to incorporate the wider community in Galway. This will involve engaging with the local population, as well as liaising with local NGO’s, charities, schools, and other relevant stakeholders, to disseminate our findings. You can get involved by contacting the campaign via email: failterefugeesgalway@gmail.com.

According to the UNHCR report of 2016, this unprecedented refugee crisis has witnessed the greatest level of human displacement on record. Sixty five million people around the world have been forced from their homes, and twenty one million of these have escaped their countries of origin to become refugees, their suffering continuing. Even more disturbing is the fact that over half of those fleeing are under the age of 18. A national campaign of this nature is crucial for holding our government to account, as it will highlight Ireland’s solidarity with those who are forced to flee their homes due to warfare, famine, sexual violence, or other human rights violations. Forty percent of refugees within Europe are children, and this fact alone should provide a real sense of urgency. Ireland has historically been viewed as the country of the Céad Míle Fáilte, and this crisis is an appropriate opportunity to express our compassion as a nation by inviting people in. Yes, we are experiencing a domestic crisis in both health and housing, but we cannot conflate these issues.

The Fáilte Refugees Campaign hopes to ensure that the Irish Government meets its current international obligations to increase its refugee intake as soon as possible. The widely-criticised system of Direct Provision also needs reform, as it has remained largely unchanged since its inception sixteen years ago. Refugees, once placed within this system, are left in a virtual hiatus for up to seven years, awaiting a decision on whether they can remain in Ireland or be sent back to their country of origin. They are housed in whichever random facility the system allocates to them, facilities which are disproportionately operated by private businesses. They are prevented from obtaining employment, while a weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child is allocated to them. According to the Irish Reception & Integration Agency, one quarter of the 4,252 residents in Direct Provision in Ireland are under the age of 18.

The global arms trade is responsible for much inhumane suffering and death, nobody can deny this, and a high percentage of arms used in many Middle Eastern conflict zones are manufactured in European states. These arms are subsequently sold to countries shipping their destructive cargo to Syria and, again, private industries are making obscene profits from the suffering of innocent civilians. We must remember that over seven million refugees are fleeing Syria and Afghanistan, as a direct result of military ‘interventions’ led by Western nations. The people of Ireland have to stand up and hold our Government to account for their actions, taken in our name. Always remember, refugees have no choice - but we do!

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"The Risk to Gender Equality" by Cormac Pope

In the last year the world seems to be walking backwards in terms of human rights, heading down all too familiar pathways we can see by just flicking through our history books.  One cannot be blamed for feeling hopeless and defeated when people out there are making it harder to break down the barriers and boundaries to achieving a fairer more united world to live and grow in.

Instead of feeling hopeless, defeated, alone and oppressed we need to turn these feelings into fuel to generate a stronger feeling of determination and fiercely defend and advance on the human rights that every person deserves.

The Women’s right’s movement is taking some strong hits. Since Trumps election there has been an increase in harassment and hate against people, targeting immigrants, coloured people, Muslims, women and members of the LGBTQI community. Trump has already targeted women’s reproductive rights, claims that climate change is a hoax and plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement which will have hugely negative implications for generations.  

With a man in hold of such strong power, others with similar mind-sets now feel more comfortable expressing their discriminatory views which will enable them to “make America great again”. Allowing them to push our society backwards into awful situations which we have seen before, instead of moving forward into a safer, fairer and kinder world.

Vladimir Putin has Just Signed Off on the Partial Decriminalization of Domestic Abuse in Russia, which sadly passed with ease despite pushback from women's and children’s rights advocates. These power houses are threating the stability of our society, shaping how and what people think.

In 2016 we did see some huge breakthroughs, legal wins and strength. Let’s carry these into this year as inspiration for what can and will be done in a world when it is most needed. Adding to the long list of wins and celebrations.  In Brazil women and men have been fighting back against anti-women and anti-black policies and actions that are taking place under President Michel Temer.  In Poland they have fought back against a new strict abortion ban, where they have preserved women’s reproductive rights, again.   In Ireland, great movements with the repeal the 8th campaign have been made, raising awareness of the issues that need to be corrected, there is still more that needs to be done informing the public on the actions that need to be taken and the government must respond. Things are on the right track in relation to supporting and caring for women.  In Nigeria, twenty one girls were successfully returned home after being kidnapped from their schools two years ago, with the aid of awareness #bringbackourgirls. When Trump was elected, the next day huge numbers of people stood up for women’s rights, not just in the states but across the world in a United Women’s March defending women and trumping out hate. We will not be quite, we will unite, stand together and be louder. Knowing right from wrong and defending it.

We need to continue educating young boys and girls on the social issues surrounding us all. Inform people what is happening in the world, raise awareness of the current affairs that are damaging lives every day. In Ireland, the recent TV campaigns highlighting domestic violence seek to teach us all a thing or two.   We all play a role in this, we can stand by and let it happen, or stand together and stop it.

Let them build walls and attempt to shatter lives, but we will build a future together, united and fearlessly that will rise above sexism, homophobia, racism, xenophobia and hate. Build a world where we all feel safe, where we can be proud of where we live and where we come from. A place where we want our children to grow up and flourish in. Let’s show the world that it will be a better place for everyone when every woman and girl is strong, safe, powerful, and heard. No exceptions.


Cormac Pope volunteering with EIL in Thailand 

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"Building a Connection" by Aisling Miller

Did you know, there are 60 million displaced humans currently on the planet? This was one of many facts presented at the ALIVE workshop on Migration, Refugees and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) here on campus, in conjunction with the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) and Fáilte Refugees Galway Campaign. The main aim of the event was to build a connection between people and migration so as to highlight the normality and reality of people on the move. Once we construct borders which regulate who can and cannot move, we are not considering why it is necessary for people to move, or how that must feel. The activities during the workshop helped us to understand what it was like to be a migrant youth, which gave us a clearer perception of the challenges they experience.

NYCI is the umbrella organisation for youth work here in Ireland. They work with connecting young people with global issues, both at home and abroad, while empowering them with the necessary skills and confidence to actively participate in society. Also in attendance was Aidan Harte, Auditor of the Fáilte Refugees Society here in NUI Galway. Upon speaking with him, it was evident Aidan had high hopes for the future and potential of the society. They intend to reach out to secondary schools around Galway and educate young people about the current refugee crisis. This NYCI workshop offered many tools and resources which may be applied by Fáilte Refugees in the future.

Throughout the workshop, it was encouraging to see such engagement and interest from participants. Megan, a final year Arts, student described her interest in the workshop and how she believes “it’s such a big topic at the moment [..] Historically migration has been a big issue and it will continue into the future. Conflict and climate change will see millions more displaced”.

One of the main points I took from the workshop was about perception. Dermot, from NYCI, offered a poignant quote stating that “You can only see the world from where you are standing”. Only through dialogue and connection can we begin to gain a clearer understanding of the world around us, and her issues. If society could come together and talk about the problems happening both around the world and at home in Ireland, we could make some progress and form connections between people, topics and places.

 

 

The work which both NYCI and Fáilte Refugees do is fundamentally trying to support this idea of starting dialogue and making connections. These organisations support and believe in the youth of Ireland. It is an exceptional opportunity for them to be exposed to these global issues and included in the dialogue.

The workshop was received well by all participants, one student even commented that “it was really motivating and great to see what's being done on the education of students about what it means to be a refuge.” Hopefully more opportunities like this become available again around Galway and I urge you to go along and get involved in the dialogue.

5 things I learned:

  • 40’000 people die from crossing borders since 2000
  • Collaboration and communication is necessary if we are to work together to overcome global issues, such as migration
  • Every individual is responsible for the SDG
  • It’s about knowing what you can do at home; there are opportunities to make an impact
  • Ireland is hosting Welcome Migrant Meals

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dermot from NYCI for taking the time to travel from Dublin to facilitate this workshop and to ALIVE for organising such an informative and beneficial evening. To get involved and make your mark you can visit the NYCI website www.youth.ie or join NUIG’s Fáilte Refugees society. 

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"What volunteering means to me" by Laura Ledger

Volunteering has always been important to me. I started volunteering at a very young age with my local community centre and continue to volunteer there up to this day. Volunteering has helped me to make loads of new friends and learn new skill and to feel part of a community. It was a great help to me when I was taking part in the Bronze Gaisce Award because I was able to continue my volunteer work and earn the award. Coming to NUIG I thought it would be difficult to keep up my volunteer work back home in Limerick because I would only be able to volunteer at the weekends. But boy was I wrong!

ALIVE, NUIG’s student volunteering platform has made it so easy to volunteer and to be recognised for your efforts. I first heard about ALIVE at one of the stand days in the Bailey Allen Hall and I signed up to the mailing list to stay informed with what was happening, later through one of my modules I was partnered with ALIVE. I found out how easy it was to apply for the certificate and after a minimum of 10 hours of volunteering I would have a certificate from the President of NUIG. This certificate rewards you for the volunteer work you’ve done and looks great on a CV. Often in job interviews students find it hard to talk about the volunteering they’ve done because it may not fit into the questions they’ve been asked. This certificate, however allows the employer to see that you have volunteered to a high standard. It shows the employer that you’re not just academically minded, that you’re a well-rounded person.

My volunteer work has mainly been in Limerick at St. Munchin’s Community Centre. I started volunteering there because I realised how much it was benefiting my community and I wanted to be a part of that. I started by helping the manager in her office so I could see what it was like to do that kind of work but also help her tidy and organise the office. I then moved to helping out by running the sweet shop at community bingo every Thursday night. Throughout this time I got the chance to meet with loads of new people and it really got me out of my comfort zone and made me more confident. Now that I’m doing a commerce degree I have been allowed test my new skills in the community centre. Every Saturday I volunteer on the cash register and take note of pricing issues and try figure out other ways to market the community centre. I brought the idea of getting the centre on social media more to the manager and she has allowed me to start up accounts to get the word out.

Because of volunteering I have been given the opportunity to gain experience in marketing and get an ALIVE Certificate. I am also looking forward to using studentvolunteer.ie to find some once off volunteering experiences over the Christmas period and you should too! You might think you don’t have enough time and there’s nothing out there for you to do but you are needed and you gain so much from the experience that it’s well worth it. So get out there! There are loads of opportunities, whether it be with young people, old people, the environment and so much more.  

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"My ALIVE expereicne" by Shane Gaughan

How many times had you volunteered before coming to college? Perhaps you were like me and only did the odd bit around the local community when you had to. Maybe you were the total opposite and couldn’t get enough of it and are now running volunteer organisations. All I know is since I've come to college my outlook on volunteering has changed.

Before I came to college I did what most young adults did and only volunteered when they had to, usually through a TY project. Through one of my Commerce modules I was partnered with ALIVE volunteering in NUIG. ALIVE was set up in the college to help harness, acknowledge and support the contribution that students make by volunteering at home or around campus. What’s great about ALIVE is the ALIVE Cert. This recognises the student’s contribution towards voluntary work and through ALIVE.

Signing up with ALIVE online is easy and finding volunteering opportunities to apply for is even easier! I applied to work with COPE Galway on a bag packing event they were organising in Marks & Spensers here in Galway. I thought that this would be right up my ally as we own a supermarket back home in Mayo, so I’m well used to packing bags! When I arrived to M&S I was welcomed by Marie-Anne who was working for COPE Galway and I was kitted out in my COPE t-shirt and ready to get packing! The event went very well and I received a text last week telling me they raised €2,524.77 and thanking me for all the help I gave them on the day. This text made me think. First of all.. WOW! What a serious amount of money for a serious cause! Secondly, I didn’t think I did all that much. In fact, all I did was turn up, throw on a t-shirt, pack some bags and be nice to the people shopping. That’s it! I always thought of voluntary work being long and boring and of no benefit. But that really did open my eyes up.

Since that event, I have been in talks with COPE again to meet up for another event they hope to be holding in the near future. I've also gotten more involved with events back home like with the TidyTowns or local community centre and Foróige. ALIVE was the springboard to launch me into all these wonderful opportunities and I would recommend everyone go sign up to their mailing list at least to stay in touch with all the volunteering events around the area. You’d never know, you might just find a new passion for something you never even thought about! And remember, a little goes a very, very long way. 

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