This National Volunteering Week (NVW) we want to showcase what we get up to here in Sligo Volunteer Centre and how we can help people.  We have compiled a few stories from volunteers and non-profits who have used our service.  This is the first of these stories and this one comes from Sean Forde. Our good friend Sean is not only a longstanding volunteer with the Samaritans but he has been involved on our board for many years. Here is his story:

My name is Sean Forde and I have volunteered with the Samaritans for 31 years. I’m a volunteer on the phones every week and I’m also a team leader. I’m also a member of the Sligo Volunteer Centre Board.

What made you consider volunteering? Going back 32 years ago I developed TB and I was extremely ill for 2 years. I had my own business and a young family and within a short space of time, my whole life turned around. I had an interest in people, so I volunteered.

Tell us an interesting thing/surprising thing that came out of your volunteering journey? I just found it fascinating to talk to people and to be with people. It was lovely to be able to help. I went through a lot of turmoil when I was ill, I didn’t fully realise it at the time but the people I mixed with in the centre were very understanding. I realised the value of listening to people. People don’t realise how important it is to listen to people. 

What did you gain from volunteering? Friendship and fun. There’s a very social side to it, we call ourselves the Samaritan family. I’m on the national board and we go to festivals including Oxygen, the Fleadh Cheoil, etc. We are together for a whole weekend and we get to know each other well. We are the Festival Family. I also attend a conference every year which is really interesting and includes international speakers, there’s a lot of variety at the conference, lots of learning and also a dinner dance where we can let our hair down.

Have things changed during COVID?  Yes, it’s been very strange. Our team of volunteers don’t get to see each other. There are only 2 people allowed in the centre at a time now all meetings on Zoom.  Much like with my own family I now see my volunteer family on Zoom. 

How did the Volunteer Centre help you? The volunteer centre and board are the same type of people as the group I volunteer with. I’ve enjoyed being a board member for the last 13 years, but I have to stand down this year due to regulations (I’ve reached my term limit).

Would you recommend volunteering to a friend? Oh, without a doubt, where would this country be without the volunteers? I dread to think.

“Where would this country be without the volunteers?”

Sean Forde