Types of Volunteering
Everyone can volunteer and there is a volunteering roles out there for all interests and skills. There are endless volunteering opportunities for people to take part in. They can range from community welfare, special needs assistance and youth work to adult education, advocacy and fundraising. Below are some examples of vo opportunities that are available through volunteer.ie and local Volunteer Centres – but remember this list is by no means exhaustive!
Conservation, the Environment and Gardening
Conservation volunteers repair footpaths, clear ponds and waterways, plant trees, build dry-stone dykes, create nature trails - the list is endless. The work can usually be done at weekends or out-of-office hours too. You could help out at a community garden project or do simple maintenance for someone who is unable to look after their own garden.
People with learning disabilities may have difficulty understanding new or complex information, learning new skills or coping independently.
• help with activities, sports and crafts and social clubs, youth clubs and resource centres.
• provide one-to-one support to families or individuals as
befrienders or advocates.
• assist at summer play-schemes for children.
Volunteer advice workers offer confidential advice and information to members of the public. Some advice centres give a very wide range of information e.g. Citizens Information Centres. Others are more specialist e.g. working with homeless people or people with a disability. Volunteer Centres also involve volunteers on this basis. Some advice agencies look for a long-term commitment from volunteers and training can last up to three months. feelings of depression, anxiety and confusion, sometimes to an extent that makes it difficult for a person to cope with everyday life. Only a small number of people experiencing mental health problems are admitted to hospital. Most are treated and supported in their community.
• assist at drop-in centres and social groups by helping with activities, chatting to people or providing a listening ear.
• provide one-to-one support as befrienders or advocates.
Adult Basic Education
Many adults and young people want to improve their reading, writing or numeracy. Adult basic education provides tuition in groups with paid and volunteer tutors. Volunteers must attend a training course and be prepared to give a long-term commitment, perhaps helping once or twice a week
for a minimum of a year.
• tutor people who have difficulty with basic skills.
• teach English as a second language.
• help deaf students with language development.
• help students who have a disability.
• work with people who have speech and language difficulties as a result of a stroke.
• provide basic information and communication technology (ICT)
Many volunteers work with people living in temporary or hostel accommodation, or those sleeping rough.
• help out at drop-in or night shelters, providing hot drinks and meals and giving support.
• be trained to give information and advice.
• work alongside paid workers in outreach work on the streets.
Advocacy and Campaigning
Many non-profit organisations campaign and lobby for their cause, be it local, national or global. International organisations campaigning on global issues often need to lobby in Ireland too. In all areas of advocacy and campaigning, non-profit organisations rely on volunteers.
• join an interest group. For example, anti-racism, fair trade, human rights, trade justice, solidarity etc.
• speak out publicly about the cause.
• become involved in various actions supporting a campaign, such as sending letters or emails, posting flyers etc.
• support and/or assist in such campaigns events, including through designing campaigns, writing publicity material etc.
Non-profit organisations often rely on fundraising to survive and need to have diverse and imaginative ways of raising funds for their work. Most organisations rely on volunteer fundraisers and there are always many, many volunteering opportunities in this area.
• organise or take part in sponsored events, street collections,
fun runs etc.
• help out in charity shops.
• be on a fund raising committee.
• help design a funding strategy for an organisation.
Many organisations have an ongoing need for volunteers to do office administration such as reception duties, typing and research. Others need volunteers to help out at busy times e.g. publicity campaigns or fundraising drives.
Volunteers can do:
• reception and administration work.
• financial or management committee tasks.
• ’once-off’ pieces of work such as setting up a database, producing publicity material or devising a marketing strategy.
Most opportunities to volunteer in this field take place in the daytime and are with elder people who are frail or experiencing some level of dementia.
- Help at lunch clubs or day centres, perhaps serving teas and lunches or assisting with quizzes, games and reminiscing activities.
- Deliver ’Meals on Wheels’ or library books to housebound people.
- Befriend through making home visits.
- Help out in residential homes and hospitals e.g. reading to patients, playing board games.
- Teach an older person a skill - e.g. how to surf the internet, email etc.
Some organisations need DIY or building volunteers to paint and decorate, carry out repairs or put up shelves. This can be for the organisation itself or with its client base.
• Paint the walls of community centres, childcare facilities, day care centres for elder people
• Make small improvements in the home or garden of people unable to undertake this work themselves.
• Offer professional building or decoration services.
Befriending involves giving support and friendship to someone who may be going through a difficult period, is feeling lonely, or is adjusting to a major change in their life.
Befriending schemes can support, for example: elder people, lone parents, young people, new parents, adults with disabilities or health problems.
Volunteer befrienders are matched with a client (perhaps because they share an interest or are of a similar age). They meet on a regular basis, perhaps to go shopping, go to the cinema or simply to have a chat over a cup of coffee. Befriending may aim to encourage the client’s independence, build their self-confidence or offer social contact beyond their immediate family. Befrienders are carefully selected and trained and receive ongoing support.
Many people are particularly interested in volunteering with people with a physical disability to assist them lead a more active or independent life.
• help or assist with individuals or groups dealing with specific conditions such as arthritis, cancer, or epilepsy or with more general disability organisations.
• provide one-to-one support as a tutor, befriender or peer counsellor.
HIV/Aids and Drug Dependency
Many people choose to volunteer with people directly or indirectly affected by HIV/AIDS or drug dependency issues.
• help out at a drop-in or information centre.
• be a befriender in a ’buddy’ scheme.
• provide practical help such as gardening, driving, baby-sitting, or painting and decorating.
• participate in preventative, educational and awareness raising work.
Many elder people or people with a disability are unable to leave their homes due to a lack of suitable transport. Volunteer drivers provide a vital service helping them to get out and about, perhaps to a day centre or social club. Some organisations have their own vehicles whilst others need drivers with their own car. Perhaps the best-known volunteer drivers are the ’Meals on Wheels’ fleet.
The insurance requirements of organisations may differ, but usually a volunteer has to be aged over 23 years and have a clean driving licence. Minibus drivers may be required to sit a test. Volunteers using their own car will normally be paid petrol expenses.
Children and Young People
There are a wide variety of volunteering roles with children.
• assist in crèches and playgroups for the under fives.
• help with after school clubs, junior youth clubs and holiday
playschemes, helping with games, arts and crafts, music and sport for those aged under 12.
• help out with young people over 12 in youth clubs or youth
cafés and ‘drop-in’ centres providing varied social, leisure and outdoor activities, as well as ’issue’ based work e.g. health promotion or drugs awareness.
• provide one-to-one support for children who are experiencing difficulties at school or at home.
• There are also well known youth organisations such as the Scouts and Girl Guides.
Individuals who volunteer with children or vulnerable adults should expect to undergo Garda Vetting.
Many hospitals and residential care units involve volunteers in a variety of roles.
• visit and befriend patients and/or residents.
• help in hospital shops.
• provide trolley and library services.
• escort patients on outings.
• help with social activities.
You may wish to get involved in voluntary work on a residential basis. This will involve a period of ‘live in’ with the organisation. Residential volunteering opportunities can last from one week to several months or more. Your local Volunteer Centre will be able to advise you on organisations that offer residential opportunities
• help out in summer camps for children
• assist in care units for people affected by homelessness
• assist residential drug rehabilitation centres
• undertake environmental volunteer projects
Groups of friends or colleagues can get together for a one-off volunteering project e.g. painting a mural, creating a wildlife garden, decorating premises or organising an outing for a group of people. Your local Volunteer Centre will be able to let you know of available projects.