International Pen Pals
University of Limerick International Division
University of Limerick students, who contributed more than 30,000 volunteer hours to more than 80 organisations, charities and clubs both at home and abroad, have been praised and recognised through the President’s Volunteer Awards held at UL.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, University of Limerick President Dr Des Fitzgerald, said: “Over the last nine years of the PVA programme, student volunteers from University of Limerick have contributed more than 137,000 hours to the various host organisations, groups and charities.
“These are hugely impressive numbers and the volunteering efforts of our students reaches far and wide beyond this campus and this city and today we recognise and applaud that.'
At the 2019 ceremony held at UL, which also heard a special address from Dr Vicky Phelan, 448 students received gold, silver or bronze awards based on the hours contributed to the host organisations during the 2018/19 academic year.
A minimum of 20 volunteer hours were required by each registered student to participate in the programme which is run under the auspices of studentvolunteer.ie. UL has awarded more than 2,800 students for their volunteering since the programme began in 2010.
Since 2010, the PVA programme at UL has witnessed year on year growth in the number of volunteers participating. From the initial group of 84 volunteers, it is expected that the number of participants is likely to exceed 500 when we mark the programme’s 10th anniversary next year.
Dr Fitzgerald explained: “The value of giving something back to society is strong in UL and we are most certainly leading in our encouragement and recognition of student volunteers and their efforts.”
“The PVA draws on a strong tradition of student volunteering both on and off campus as volunteering plays a key role in the functioning of social services for communities, the region and the nation as a whole.
“At University of Limerick, the PVA looks to sustain and foster a culture of volunteering, active citizenship and civic engagement amongst the student population,” he added.
Organisations who benefitted from student volunteers included ISPCC/Childline Limerick, Midwest Simon Community, Irish Cancer Society and Nurture Africa.
Special guest Dr Vicky Phelan, who was awarded an honourary doctorate by University of Limerick last year, addressed the volunteers and said that she commended the students on “the commitment, time and dedication that you have given so generously of in volunteering in your chosen field and I congratulate you on your awards.
“I firmly believe that you will reap the benefits of your volunteering experience for years to come.”
Dr Phelan added that the experience will provide students with “transferable skills that can be brought to the workplace and it will also give you perspective while also making you feel better about yourself and others.”
In her address, Dr Phelan shared her experience and the role of volunteering in society based on her own contribution since she made those forceful disclosures on the steps of the Four Courts in April 2018.
“I was a whistleblower who exposed huge failings in our cervical screening programme here in Ireland. My volunteerism or social activism has had huge impact on women’s healthcare in Ireland and has led to major reform of our healthcare system.
Dr Phelan said that her volunteering and working with women and families who were affected by the scandal allowed her “to channel the anger of my own misdiagnosis and facing a death sentence”.
“I felt compelled to help others and other women like me who found out through the discovery process in my court case that they had been potentially misdiagnosed. Some of those women died. Helping others helped me. It gave me a sense of purpose and stopped me thinking too much about my own still very precarious predicament at the time,” she added.
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