-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC
“It is in the shelter of each other that people live” - Irish proverb
Ireland is an amazing place. This was my second trip to the Emerald Island and it didn’t disappoint. The people are terrific, weather cooperated this time and there was plenty of Guinness.
After landing in Dublin and navigating my way through Dublin’s new Terminal II, I grabbed my bags and headed toward the AirCoach bus service that has direct service to a drop-off spot about five blocks from my hotel. I must have had a shamrock packed in my bags because the bus dropped me off directly in front of building that had “Volunteer” written all over it. It turned out to be the office of Irish Aid: the government ofIreland’s program of assistance to developing countries. Although they are not involved with volunteering within Ireland, they did have connections to people at organizations that utilize volunteers locally. Jill at Irish Aid put me in touch with Kate at Volunteer Ireland and within 24 hours I had a volunteer project all lined up.
As my luck would have it my trip would overlap 2 days with the European Union’s Year of Volunteering Roadshow - a five-day fair featuring more than 70 charities in Ireland that depend on volunteers to operate. There were information booths about each of the nonprofits that were participating as well as informational seminars on a wide range of subjects related to volunteering. Kate set me up to help out during Tuesday’s event which worked perfectly for me not only because I would be back in Dublin on that day but also because the focus of the day was on charities that engage older Americans – a topic that I thought would be of great interest to the readers of the column I write for AARP.
I arrived around 10:30 and met Kate. She put me to work helping another staffer hang a banner out a second story window. Although it didn’t look perfect, we got it placed as best we could without falling 20 feet to our death!
The rest of the day was spent doing small tasks that came up and trying to get passersby to come in and check out the fair – a painful job but somebody’s got to do it. Although the event had been publicized reasonably well, attendance was light. I took the opportunity to speak to some of the organizations that were exhibiting and was really impressed with the work that they are doing.
I got lucky that things fell into place and I was able to volunteer. Despite trying to arrange things prior to my trip, I was unable to secure any volunteer opportunities mostly because of standard bureaucracy related to volunteering in Ireland. You see typically you have to formally apply, get screened by Garda (Irish Police) and attend an in-person meeting all before being accepted as a volunteer. If you are thinking about volunteering overseas you check out two articles I did for AARP on the subject for some tips and lessons learned.
For more information on volunteering in Ireland please visit: