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This final episode of Dúiche looks at the culture of volunteerism that exists in Ireland. Síle will visit two organisations in Galway which depend hugely on volunteer workers giving their time and energy freely. The Society of St Vincent de Paul was established in 1844, and is the largest voluntary charitable organisation in Ireland, with over 11,000 volunteers. Each volunteer undergoes training and their talents, interests and availability are matched to the society’s work with people in need.
The Galway Adult Basic Education Service started out in 1984. Volunteering has been a key part of its service since the beginning and all voluntary tutors are trained for 20 hours before being placed with a student in a one to one setting. Volunteers are matched with students who have literacy and numeracy difficulties. Students often need help with spelling, reading, tasks related to work such as form-filling, filling in dockets, writing emails or texting – things that are often taken for granted on a day-to-day basis.
We’ll also visit three other volunteer organisations. The Bia food initiative is based in Cork since 2012. Their belief is that wasting food while people go hungry is wrong. ‘Bia’ collects large amounts of food which is near its sell by date from the bigger retailers, and redistributes it to organisations that provide much needed help and food to Ireland’s new poor. One of these organisations is Penny Dinners in Cork, which provides 1500 dinners a week to hungry people.
In Limerick, Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol was founded in 2012 to try to do something about the large number of people who commit suicide each year in the city. On different nights of the week volunteers patrol the streets and banks of the Shannon, on the lookout for people who might be showing signs of distress. Each volunteer undergoes training, both in emergency first aid and suicide prevention.
Finally we visit An Rinn, where a new Helvick Head Lifeboat was named and installed at the end of last summer with a gala launch at the harbour. The station’s fundraising committee won the overall award in the Waterford City and County Community and Voluntary sector as announced at the end of the year 2014. They raise in the region of €50,000 each year.