Mary Rice – Volunteer with ISPCC Childline

Mary Rice volunteers with ISPCC Childline in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. This National Volunteering Week she tells us why she volunteers, what it’s like and why she’d recommend it to everyone.

Mary began volunteering with Childline in 2012 following the passing of her husband. With two children in college, she wanted to do something for herself and to set an example they could follow. Eight years later and Mary hasn’t looked back! In fact, she’s already talking about giving more time once she retires.

Mary spends 4 hours a week (6pm – 10pm every Saturday) with Childline’s phone service. Mary’s role is to listen to any children that contact the service online, by phone or by text and give them a safe space to talk. The aim of the service isn’t to give advice but rather to listen to children, to support them, empower them and work to strengthen their resilience to help them cope with challenges they may face. Children don’t need to have a problem to call, they can simply ring up for a chat if they like. According to Mary, it can be something as simple as sharing the news that they got a new pet – it’s all about creating the space to talk.

One of the first things Mary points out when we chat is that she gets just as much out of it as she gives. “I absolutely love it; I find it very fulfilling. It so quickly became a part of my life”.

Mary also acts as a mentor to new volunteers, supporting them and helping them get used to the role. “We have such a fantastic team in Castlebar. I’m in my early sixties and volunteer with people in their late teens and early twenties. It’s such a great mix of people and we all get on so well”.

Finally, I asked Mary what she would say to other people thinking of volunteering. “There are so many opportunities for people to get involved and you really do get a lot more out of it than you give. Giving back to the community is a wonderful thing to do; I’d recommend it to anyone”.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Childline service can find out more at ISPCC.ie.

Martina Brennan, Coordinator of Friendly Call Service, Co. Sligo

Martina Brennan is the Coordinator of the Friendly Call Service in Moylough, Co. Sligo. This National Volunteering Week, we chatted to Martina about the importance of the service, what she gets out of it and why volunteers are so important.

Martina has been the Coordinator of the Friendly Call Service since it was established in 2011. The service provides regular ‘friendly calls’ to elderly people living alone or in isolation in the local area. Although Martina is employed by Sligo Leader, she volunteers even more hours beyond her contract to make sure no-one is left behind.

According to Martina, the service is vital for those that use it. “For some people, the phone call might be the only interaction they have all week.” The service was originally set up with the idea of making calls to people once a week but since the onset of COVID-19 that has all changed.

“As soon as the pandemic began, I asked people if they’d like to be called more often than once a week. Now I phone 25 people each day. We talk about whatever they want – the weather, television, even the pandemic”. The most important aspect, Martina points out, is that it’s only a chat – she doesn’t ask any personal questions or give any advice.

I ask Martina what she gets out of it and the answer was clear – quite a lot! “I’m a really sociable person and I like talking to people. Some days you can wake up in a bad mood but making these calls always cheers me up – it does you the world of good! Older people have lots to give and it’s wonderful to hear their stories, especially about the history of the local area”.

Martina will be retiring in November but hopes to still give some time volunteering to the service. Sligo Volunteer Centre are currently recruiting volunteers to support the service here.