Ciara Herity is the Manager of the Sligo Volunteer Centre. Sligo has the presitigious honour of being the 2017 European Volunteering Capital. Ciara tells us how it all began and what's going on now.
The idea of applying for the European Volunteering Capital first came across my desk in summer 2015. Marian Harkin MEP had encouraged me to have a look and to consider it. First it seemed like an impossible and daunting task – the previous holders were Barcelona and Lisbon.
What would Sligo have to say? When I thought about the fantastic spirit of Sligo people and willingness to help out and get stuck in – I thought – Why not!
I approached the Sligo County Council as the award has to sit with a municipality. They were happy to participate and we set about making the joint application. It was very surreal to be announced as the European Volunteering Capital 2017 in Lisbon that December. The announcement that London were the holders for 2016 had just been made! Wow!
It has been a busy, hectic year to date. All in all a fantastic experience. We had an exciting event where we brought local businesses and charities together for an 'Adopt a Charity campaign'. Charity needs were presented and we facilitated the networking between the two parties. There have been success stories so far. It was a real heartwarmer to see the willingness of the businesses to share their skills with the charities.
We are really keen to get the Volunteer Voices out there – Irish people in general are quite hesitant to call themselves volunteers. They 'help out' or 'are involved in' – they don't see themselves as doing anything special. We are organising monthly cafe conversation sessions with a different topic each time. It is casual and informal and gives people a chance to meet others who volunteer.
Events are coming to Sligo that wouldn't have considered doing so without the special year. I am born and bred in Sligo myself and it is fantastic to be able to welcome visitors and groups to our County and show it off.
It is a fantastic opportunity to put the spotlight on volunteering in Sligo and we are looking forward to rolling out the rest of the calendar of events.
Check out the calendar of events on www.evcsligo.eu and follow on facebook and Twitter @EVCSligo2017