I have been volunteering within the community from a very young age as my parents have always done it themselves. By the age of 9 I was joined by my three brothers where we assisted our parents at the weekends and during the school holidays.
My father was a Community Worker at the Divis Community Centre where I assisted the community workers, but I think this was to keep us occupied and to stay out of trouble! I also became a mentor for disabled children on Saturday afternoons and at annual Summer Schemes in my holidays. I thoroughly enjoyed it as it gave me a sense of responsibility, but it also it gave an understanding of how fortunate I was asto have parents who cared enough to help others. Even though I have a disability myself, it allowed me to help others achieve activities without limitations.
My mother worked as a House Manager at Queen’s Film Theatre, and as a teenager I was old enough to assist in Q: Dots (a children’s Saturday Matinee Club). Here I assisted with supervising younger children (including my brothers); I also assisted in an Usherette role, which involved welcoming guests and tearing tickets.
I started to get the taste for volunteering and when I reached the age of going it alone, I got involved in school projects such as Faith Friends in which you help children at primary school to prepare for their Holy Communion. Other charity work included collecting food for hampers at Christmas. I was also asked to help with collecting money for our local Parish Draw. Needless to say, it was sometimes hard to ask people for their weekly contribution but I continued doing this for a year until I left to concentrate on my studies and further exams.
Years past and then in my late twenties with four young children in primary school I started to think of going back to work. It was a struggle to find employment, but I found a way by volunteering with Shopmobility Belfast. A friend of my parents took me under his wing and helped me on my way to gain more experience and confidence interacting with the variety of people who came in through the doors.
I was placed in a variety of locations throughout the city centre and ended up at the Royal Victoria Hospital assisting out-patients in providing them with a variety of wheelchairs that allowed them to be more mobile without additional stress.
I have also volunteered with Action Cancer where I assumed the role of shop and administrative assistant. This led me to getting my role at Cundall, as it was a local employment agency that provided me with the opportunity for work experience while training in Administration.
Although Shopmobility and Action Cancer was more of a stepping stone into employment it did have its rewards; it led to a great sense of achievement that you are able to dedicated time and assistance to people who are less fortunate than yourself.
This is why my parents, my family and myself get involved in Volunteering. If anyone has free time I would urge you to investigate ways in which you can help your local community.
Sinead’s father, Sean McCaffrey, added; “When people ask me ‘why do you volunteer?’ I reply ‘I’m selfish’. I get much more out of it that I put in’.
As its International Volunteers Day 2018 why don’t you make an early New Years Resolution to donate your time to your local community?