Michael Butler

Louth Volunteer Centre

Co. Louth 

Michael is a member of the Louth Community Volunteers, which is a programme that enlists a crew of volunteers to be on standby for events, festivals, or urgent community needs. Over the last 15 months, Michael has been a charming presence at events like the St Patrick’s Day Parade, Lú Festival, and has assisted new arrivals to the Louth Community with energy and enthusiasm.  

Michael took quickly to volunteering, and shares his love for the varied community activities with others. His manager shared a story that even at his very first festival, he was taking new volunteers under his wing and providing support and guidance to people just getting started.   

He is also a big advocate for inclusive volunteering and helps organizations understand how they can tailor volunteering opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities, like him. He has shared that he has gained practical skills, new relationships, and emotional wellbeing from his active role in the community and hopes that more people will have the chance to experience volunteering.   

“Everything about Michael is special,” remarks one of his fellow volunteers, “He is a joy to be around. He keeps everyone around him laughing and smiling.” His manager notes that he is always the first to respond to new opportunities and just how reliable he is.

Freda Carville and Colleen Hardy

Artisans Dundalk

Co. Louth 

Colleen Hardy and Freda Carville have been volunteering with Artisans Dundalk for over thirty years where they teach weekly art classes. Here they challenge and nurture people across the community, including artists with disabilities, to embrace their creative side and express themselves. “Creativity has a powerful positive impact on physical and mental health, and these classes have provided the community with immeasurable enjoyment” says one of their students. 

It is the warm and patient atmosphere that Colleen and Freda cultivate that is what really affects their students. “They have a truly unique way of being able to identify each individual’s artist style and assist them to develop and nurture their techniques and bring out abilities in us that we didn’t know we even possessed,” says one “We are encouraged to reach further and fulfill our unrealized potential. I walk away from every class feeling like I have learned something new and created something unique.” 

Because the group makes special efforts to target the isolated, lonely, elderly and disabled, the pandemic was a particularly challenging time for Artisans Dundalk. However, Colleen and Freda’s tenacity and creativity inspired them to find funding for online courses to make sure that even when distanced, their community of creatives still had a way to come together. They even met privately with anyone who struggled with the new technology to make sure that they would be able to join in virtual classes. 

Rhys Wallace

Spraoi Street Arts Festival Waterford & Winterval

Co. Waterford 

Rhys Wallace, who uses they/them pronouns, has been the volunteer to go to for “advice, support, and general tomfoolery” during their 8 years volunteering with Spraoi Street Arts Festival and Winterval in Waterford. After starting as a festival steward, Rhys has worked across the festival in multiple roles including stage manager, site coordinator, artist liaison, and now as Chief Steward they lead a team of up to 150 volunteers. It is no surprise then that Rhys is known for their open and welcoming personality, knowing exactly what it takes to be a leader putting on a festival. Spraoi is an exciting street arts festival every August bank holiday in Waterford that features contemporary local, national, and international artists. It’s a free event, maybe better described as a party, featuring 200 performances of street theatre, music, circus and spectacle arts for all ages.

Rhys has the challenge and privilege of managing the needs of visiting artists as well as the volunteers under their supervision. This includes time outside of the festival itself, planning the event and accommodating the needs of visitors. “They have always shown up and gone above and beyond the call of duty, always ready to jump in where needed, never afraid of any task or to help assist other volunteers who may be coming in for the first time” a grateful fellow volunteer notes. 

While no longer with us, Rhys would like to acknowledge their life partner Erika Tamen, who played a massive role in the cultural sphere of Waterford for the past decade. Their volunteer contributions were often done in tandem with Rhys and their memory will always exist in Waterford’s cultural fabric.

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