This summer, whether you only have two hours a week to juggle with a work-placement or want to travel abroad, volunteering allows you to give back to communities, engage with new cultures and meet new people.
DCU RAG chairperson Seanie Germaine focuses on local community involvement during the summer, maintaining a full-time job whilst volunteering with his local GAA club.
“It’s not that much when you put it into numbers” Germaine said, who estimated that various voluntary projects at the GAA club took up less than five hours a week when incorporated into his schedule.
For DCU students who want to volunteer this summer, Germaine broke the process down practically: draw up a list of areas that you’d be interested in, find out how many hours you have to give, and get in touch with DCU Student Volunteer Coordinator Ruth Lynam and organisations such as studentvolunteer.ie.
“Things won’t come to you; you’ll have to search them out,” Germaine said.
Germaine encouraged students not to hesitate and to try out volunteering, saying “if you’re having an absolute terrible day or things just aren’t going your way, if you just get down and give an hour of your time… you’ve made a difference in their lives, definitely it’s a feel good-factor.”
Experience with volunteering can also positively impact your CV for prospective employers according to Lynam, describing it as a “green light for an employer, showcasing this potential employee has pushed outside their comfort zone, gone the extra mile and all in the name of helping others.”
Over 47 per cent of all volunteering hours in Q3 2013 were carried out by those aged 45-64, with the 15-24 age bracket contributing just 6.9 per cent of total volunteering hours, according to a 2015 CSO release.
For Anne Drumm, Assistant Co-Ordinator of the special needs social group Remember Us, it’s important for students to volunteer at a local community level in Ireland.
“I think it’s important [for students to get involved] because, first of all, we’re a social group for young people with special needs and I think it’s nice for them to interact with people their own age group” Drumm said.
The Balbriggan based organisation are scheduled to host a six-week summer camp this year and are expected to start on the ninth of July.
Drumm repeatedly expressed that involvement from students is “absolutely important”.
“I think that the rewards are amazing, just, y’know, giving their time over, and absolutely you go home energised after working with special needs people” Drumm said.
Some volunteering organisations offer students the opportunity to volunteer internationally. Project Abroad, an organisation based in the UK, offers projects dependent on each volunteer’s area of interest; for example, students of law or medicine can do short-term internships overseas by shadowing a professional to help bolster their CVs, according to Bethany Evans, Director of UK Marketing at Project Abroad.
Despite describing part-time summer jobs as “fantastic opportunities”, students can develop “soft skills” like presentation and build confidence on volunteering trips as well as helping local communities, Evans said.
“Some people do come back and, I know it’s fairly cliché, then they say they’ve grown as a person, and some of them had never been outside of the UK or outside of Ireland.”
Evans started out as a volunteer in Africa involved with human rights and building volunteer work.
“You can hear stories in the news, and you can see things, but actually to go out there and experience it yourself and actually help others, whether it’s for a couple of weeks or a number of months, it’s fantastic.”
The allure of international volunteering for Evans was “going out there and feeling like you’ve put two weeks that you may have just put on a holiday to real use and helped communities. It sort of opens up your eyes to the world outside of home.”
However, Lynam warned students to research thoroughly before engaging in ’volunteerism’, the process of volunteering just to get away for the summer.
“Not all organisations conduct themselves in an appropriate manner whilst ‘volunteering’ away, particularly when working with vulnerable communities” Lynam said.
DCU are attempting to up the support given to DCU students looking to volunteer internationally, partnering with organisations such as studentvolunteer.ie to develop a systematic international volunteering framework in DCU, according to Head of Civic Engagement at DCU Ronaldo Munck.
Munck said that DCU are trying to encourage peoples’ mind-sets to move away from an “old fashioned” model of volunteering.
“Student volunteering should have a much greater profile in DCU than it does” said Munck.
“We’re trying to get away from the old fashioned idea [that] volunteering is because you’re an incredibly good person and you’re committing a day a week… no, just whenever you get a chance and however you want” according to Munck.
For DCU students who wish to volunteer abroad, DCU will call together “all interested parties” to try create international opportunities for students this summer, hopefully working nationally with studentvolunteer.ie.
However, Munck said that he didn’t think funding would be forthcoming for the establishment of an international volunteering office in DCU, noting that such an office had been established in UCD with a small number of staff members.
Image credit: Evan Carroll