Mayo Volunteer Centre is encouraging charities to embrace new kinds of volunteers

ayo Volunteer Centre is encouraging not for profit organisations to increase their understanding of new ways of volunteering – as National Volunteering Week comes to an end this Sunday, May 22. The importance of volunteers was highlighted in a new survey of 400 volunteer involving organisations carried out by Volunteer Ireland and the network of Volunteer Centres. The survey found that 53 per cent of organisations that involve volunteers said they could not survive without them.

Mayo Volunteer Centre manager Fiona Cunnane said charities, community organisations, sports clubs, and social enterprises can all benefit greatly from looking at different ways to involve volunteers – and this year’s campaign is about encouraging them to do so.

“The nature of volunteering is changing. Volunteers are increasingly looking for more skilled roles, virtual volunteering opportunities [using technology to volunteer from home] and short term volunteering would encourage organisations in Mayo to identify the specific skills which they require and to look for a fit that best meets this need.”

One local example of this new wave of volunteers is Dean Gillespie, Ballina, who holds a degree in sports rehabilitation and athletic therapy. After graduating, he hoped to gain useful work experience and was referred by Mayo Volunteer Centre to Western Care, where he volunteered with a group of adults with disabilities.

Geraldine Hogan, of Western Care, says of Mr Gillespie: “In his time with us, he has helped to get our whole group moving on our healthy lifestyle programme. He has worked with one individual as a personal trainer, and then worked as a volunteer with the group to help and motivate that person in her own environment. He has advised on safe practice around exercises for our group and he has designed a programme specifically focused on our group’s unique needs. These days, he is probably our most popular visitor to the centre as he has a bright and cheery disposition and a can-do attitude that really connects with everyone he meets.” Mr Gillespie says he is delighted to be able to use his skills as a volunteer, and that it has given him a chance to gain experience, use his degree, build contacts, and spend time doing what he loves.

National Volunteering Week is coordinated nationally by Volunteer Ireland and locally through Ireland’s network of 21 local volunteer centres and six volunteering information services which cover most counties. Fiona Cunnane encouraged charities, community organisations, sports clubs and social enterprises to contact Mayo Volunteer Centre to avail of the host of resources available on for involving skilled volunteers. Ms Cunnane added: “We want to encourage voluntary sector organisations to broaden their perception and expectation of what volunteering is. Skilled volunteers provide a valuable opportunity to engage with experienced workers who want to give back to their local community. Everyone has something to give and so much to gain."

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