I started volunteering because I wanted to give back! I have always had a deep interest in people and my own personal experiences drove me to look for volunteering opportunities that would have a direct impact on the lives of others.
I volunteer as an English language tutor for Fáilte Isteach, a national project offering free conversational English classes for immigrants of all nationalities. This tutor-led class is focused on breaking down barriers experienced by non-English speakers by transferring skills and knowledge in a welcoming and inclusive manner. I lived and studied abroad and love meeting people from all cultures, learning about their way of life and learning from them. When I lived in France, the only way to learn was to speak French daily with native speakers, make mistakes, get embarrassed and push on! I wanted to bring my experience to play with non-Irish nationals looking to integrate into my community. I keep coming back to Failte Isteach because I’ve built up a relationship with the students and I see the enthusiasm they bring to class every week. It encourages me to continue helping them feel more and more confident in their new community. I get great satisfaction from knowing that the skills I bring as a volunteer make life better for someone else.
I am also a ‘virtual volunteer’ with The Rosetta Foundation where I translate for NGOs working with underserved communities where access to information is often absent as a result of linguistic barriers or marginalisation. I have also volunteered as a photographer for ATD Ireland, Foróige and the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Volunteer Centre.
We asked Paul for his top tips for starting volunteering:
It’s all about picking an area or discipline which you have the skills to slot into (e.g. there is no point offering to teach French if you only have a basic understanding of the language!). There are so many diverse opportunities out there, so check out your own area and go from there. You need to love working with people and be aware that volunteer organisations operate in a different way to traditional businesses. Try out a few different groups or organisations and get a feel for what ‘fits’. You’ll know quickly enough and once you find the one you like, stick to it and it will develop and grow as you bring your own experience to the role – let yourself be taken in by it!