Danielle Nicholson caught up with Ciara Herity, the manager of the Sligo Volunteer Centre to
share insight into the present situation of volunteering in Sligo.
Please introduce yourself, tell us about your background and what your role entails.
My name is Ciara Herity and I am the Manager of Sligo Volunteer Centre. I look after the running of the Centre from managing our budget, to developing the work plans and reporting, ensuring our Governance and Quality Standards are adhered to linking with our colleagues across the country to promote and progress volunteering at a national level. The Volunteer Development Officers on the team link and liaise with potential volunteers and volunteering involving organizations to support them around all issues volunteer related.
What’s the current situation with non-profits in Sligo? How does the current situation with non-profits impact on volunteering opportunities?
While some not for profits are operating, many have closed their services for the moment. Some, while they are operating, are not operating in the same way and have paused volunteer recruitment, running services with existing volunteers. It is difficult to think about taking on new volunteers at the moment – volunteers need to be interviewed and trained. Overall it has meant that there are many fewer roles available for volunteers to participate in. Many volunteer roles involve supporting young people or vulnerable people and involve going into group settings. These kinds of activities are just not happening at the moment.
With fewer traditional volunteering roles available, what does the future of volunteering in Sligo look like, in your opinion?
I think the future of volunteering will be a lot of phone and online support roles. We have seen some of these around supporting those who are lonely, or who are experiencing mental health challenges. When things are able to open more physically, I think things will happen in smaller groups and will be more structured.
Will new practices be adopted even when society fully re-opens again? Why/why not?
There is a great willingness amongst groups who offer services to the community to reopen. It will take time, but I think when groups figure out how to offer their services in a safe way, they will do so. The last few months have shown us that community is so important and that working together and being mindful of others is so important.
How has the SVC adapted to the “new normal”?
SVC have adapted some of our previous face-to-face offerings online. We started running our Volunteer Managers Get Togethers online every few weeks since May. This is a great chance for us to connect with local groups, and for them to connect with each other and discuss the challenges we all face in re-opening. We are also here to chat to potential volunteers who might need some direction. The offering for them is less at the moment, but the response from people wishing to give their time has been huge.
What are you most looking forward to when this is all over?
I am most looking forward to things re-opening safely and people being able to connect with people again. It is so important for all of our mental health. We meet many people who want to volunteer to connect with their community and I think this is something we need to work towards – keeping people connected.