Growth 4: Growth Within A Community

Volunteering – Helping Yourself And Your Community To Grow

“Each day and every day in this country, each act of voluntary participation combines to form the glue, the cement that binds and unifies our society in common purpose.” President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael Higgins in 2011

“It is always so very positive and encouraging to witness the strong tradition of community spirit and volunteering that continues to be the backbone of Irish society.” President Micheal Higgins in 2019

Benefits To Oneself

‘A growing body of research has established strong links between volunteering and health and wellbeing. “Volunteers have reported an increase in their own positive mental health, their physical health and their ability to make friends,” says Amy Woods of Volunteer Ireland.’

“A lot of people experience an increased sense of confidence, as well as belonging in their community, something that has become very important at a time when people rent and have to move around a lot.”

“A lot of people who have retired or been made redundant say it gives them a sense of purpose. One person who had been made redundant found a whole new career and retrained from undertaking volunteering work.”

‘A fail-safe way to gain a sense of community and wellbeing it may be, but volunteering has shape-shifted in recent years, too, to move with the times. For some it’s a way to combine a sport, hobby or creative impulse with the chance to do good. For others it’s a more muted means of social activism.’

PPN- Public Participation Network (Ireland)

What is PPN?

‘A Public Participation Network (PPN) is a network that allows local authorities to connect with community groups around the country.

The PPN is the ‘go to’ for all local authorities who wish to benefit from community and voluntary expertise in their area.’

How do PPNs work?

‘Community groups register to join the PPN in their local authority area.

PPNs give citizens a greater say in local government decisions which affect their own communities.

Our democracy is made stronger, by allowing diverse views and interests to be considered as part of the decision making process of local government.’

Who are the community groups?

‘The three main community groups are:

  • voluntary groups working in our communities, like sports clubs, cultural societies, Meals on Wheels or TidyTowns
  • local organisations formed to protect the environment, like An Taisce or Bird Watch Ireland
  • groups representing people who are socially excluded and whose voices are not heard in our society, such as people with disabilities, migrants or Travellers’

As a member of Longford Writers Group I have learnt of the many resources available to community groups through our local PPN in Longford.

A story competition ran by Longford Writers group in conjuction with the Aisling Children’s Art Festival with funding from Creative Ireland Longford. Photo by Sally Martin
Sally Martin and myself from Longford Writers Group taking part in the Aisling Children’s Art Festival a few years ago. Photo by Lalin Swaris

A New Community Volunteer Programme Set Up In The Republic of Ireland

In September, a new community voulunteer programme was set up to “build resilience in communities”.

‘Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities Joe O’Brien opened the national pilot community volunteers programme, in partnership with Volunteer Ireland and volunteer centres supported by local authorities.

The programme aims to help organisations respond to needs in their local communities by allowing them to engage trained, local volunteers.

It will give people an opportunity to get involved in local events and festivals while also supporting “more urgent needs that arise unexpectedly,” like the community response to Covid-19.

Funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development, the programme will initially run in seven counties with ten volunteer centres.

“Volunteers over the last 18 months have been phenomenal and this launch today helps to strengthen the bond between volunteers, local authorities and the community,” Minister O’Brien said.

“Volunteering and community engagement is a key element as we reopen our society and support each other as we adjust to living with Covid-19.”

Ireland had a “proud tradition of community engagement and volunteerism” which was “a huge support to local authorities in managing the community response to Covid-19,” Tim Lucey, chair of the County and City Management Association (CCMA) and chief executive of Cork County Council said.

Those who wish to take part in the programme should contact their local volunteer centre, he said.

Acting chief executive of Volunteer Ireland, Amy Woods said the programme was “built on lessons learnt from the COVID-19 response and extensive experience supporting volunteering in our communities”.

It would “give those who want to get involved in their communities a new opportunity to play their part and connect with what’s going on in their area,” she said.’

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