Does Galway have a bigger social conscience than any other city? Is that why more people care about more things to do with their communities and their environment than in towns and cities of comparable size? That certainly seems to be the case as is evidenced from the 400 people who turned out to attend this year’s annual Mayors Awards on Tuesday night.
The events honoured a wide spectrum of ages, showing that the voluntary spirit of Galway was not born yesterday. At a time when it was feared that the Celtic Tiger had devoured all of our voluntary spirit, it was heartening to see that the nurturing of this generosity of time is an ongoing process.
And to think that these numbers were the nominees for just one year — that there is a veritable army of people out there who are weekly and daily doing tasks without any monetary reward for the betterment of the lives of those around them.
The overall winner Billy Carr had been fundraising and undertaking voluntary acts for the guts of six decades and continues to do so. And it is on the likes of Billy the city should be modelling its voluntary efforts, showing how rewarding and fulfilling being a volunteer is. He spoke afterwards about the great rewards which he got from his involvement in community and voluntary activities — the prize of great friendship.
It is a tribute to this city that every year up to 100 different organisations and bodies are recognised by their local communities and nominated to be honoured.
The Mayor’s awards are an integral part of Galway life. They show a human side to City Hall which is often lost in the clouds of bureaucracy or the gunsmoke of the meetings. These volunteers do a lot of the City Council’s work for them by ensuring that the needs of each area are highlighted and in as far as possible met with resources of time and commitment.
These are the people who keep the city going, who ensure that Galway is a better place to live in. These are the people who matter, who ensure that our communities have facilities and help. These are the people who volunteer to ensure that young people are guided through the treacherous waters of early maturity and onto the sandy beaches of adulthood. Who strive to see that the elderly do not go hungry or stay lonely. The students who give of their time in university and GMIT to help children in disadvantaged households complete their homework.
It is probably impossible to quantify the amount of good work that these volunteers do.
However, the abiding characteristic of the volunteer is one of happiness and self contentment, proving that being good and doing good makes you feel good.
Be generous with your time this year and join a voluntary group and help Galway continue this magnificent tradition.