Julia Osorio, 48 – Dietician, Migrant, Volunteer

We continue our special National Volunteering Week series where we speak to seven volunteers about what they do, why they do it and what advice they have for others with Julia Osorio. Share your story with us on Twitter using #WhyIVolunteer and #NVW2019.

Originally from Mexico, Julia has been living in Ireland for the last three years. Having spent six years in Spain with her husband and 17 year old daughter (also Julia!), Julia and Julia now live in Co. Louth. Her paediatrician husband, Francisco, will work in a hospital in Spain for a few more years before he joins them here.

Julia has been volunteering all of her life. In Mexico, she gave donations of food and clothing to the local orphanage a few times a year while both her and her husband gave 10% of their private consultation appointments away for free for those who couldn’t afford to pay (Julia is a dietician). In Spain, she was involved with the Red Cross, collecting money and delivering workshops.

Volunteering is a way of life for Julia and something she has instilled in her daughter from an early age. Since arriving in Ireland, Julia and Julia have both volunteered with a number of organisations including the Irish Maritime Festival, fundraising (twice) for MS Ireland, Drogheda Homeless Aid, North East Cancer Research and Education Trust, Drogheda LGBTQ and helped at Drogheda Pride and the Fleadh.

We asked Julia why she has given such a huge part of her life for others. “We are a lucky family – we have work, we have our health and we are together. It’s our duty to share something with the people around us. It’s important for us to integrate into and participate in the community. We can all be better if we share.”

For someone that’s been giving back for so long, is it ever challenging? “Well the Irish weather can be very challenging! It’s not always fun if you’re collecting in the freezing cold and wet. But people always smile and chat to you. You can feel very tired and cold but very happy – you feel warm on the inside after volunteering.”

Carolyn Akintola, 54 – Carer, Activist, Volunteer

Another fantastic story in our special National Volunteering Week series where we speak to seven volunteers about what they do, why they do it and what advice they have for others. Share your story with us on Twitter using #WhyIVolunteer and #NVW2019.

Carolyn is a disability awareness advocate who has been volunteering since she was 12 years old. Having spent 15 years as a carer for her mother, she has once again has the time for volunteering and taken on a number of volunteer roles.

Carolyn volunteers with the South Dublin County Volunteer Corps supporting local events and festivals such as Tallaghtfest. She is a member of the South Dublin County Council Disability Advisory Consultancy Panel and previously volunteered with St. Vincent De Paul for 25 years. Carolyn also volunteers as an inquest juror which sees her sitting on juries for inquest inquiries in Bray and the Coroner’s Court in Dublin a number of times a year.

As a lifelong volunteer, we asked Carolyn what makes her do it and her answer was simple. “If we want to live in a good society, we have to take part and make a contribution. I’ve gained a lot from society as have many others so I feel it’s important to give that back.”

What piece of advice would she give to someone who has never volunteered? “Don’t be a stranger. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Just try it and if you don’t like it you can try something else. Don’t give up at the first hurdle, there are so many different things you can do – you’ll find something that suits you.”

Hicham Lamchaali, 34 – Asylum Seeker, Footballer, Volunteer

We continue our special National Volunteering Week series where we speak to seven volunteers about what they do, why they do it and what advice they have for others with Hicham Lamchaali. Share your story with us on Twitter using #WhyIVolunteer and #NVW2019.

Hicham is an asylum seeker who has been in Ireland since 2015. Born in Morocco and having spent time in South Africa, Hicham has a wealth of life experience – he is trained in IT and has worked running a B&B and as a Kitchen Manager in a Greek restaurant in Johannesburg. More recently, Hicham has undertaken a course in Trinity College so that he may one day run for the local elections.

Living in a Direct Provision centre in Clondalkin, Hicham was keen to get involved in his community as soon as he arrived. He plays football with the Dublin Devils and runs 5k at his local Parkrun every Saturday. He is a member of the South Dublin County Volunteer Corps where he volunteers with local events and festivals, most recently helping to organise the local St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Clondalkin. He also coordinates visits of residents in the centre go to all Shamrock Rovers’ home matches in Tallaght Stadium as part of sponsored partnership with the Hoops.

We asked Hicham why he volunteers and he told us it’s simply ‘in his blood’. “Volunteering is natural to me, it’s now my mother brought me up since I was a baby. I love making other people happy – that’s what makes me the happiest. I love to integrate, meet new people and make new friends. I can also bring something of my culture to Irish culture when I volunteer. Irish people are very friendly, they have welcomed me with open arms and I would love to do more.”

What piece of advice would he give someone who has never volunteered before? “Volunteering will make you happy. Even if you are happy now, volunteering will make you happier. When you are not from Ireland it can help you make friends and learn things about Ireland you never knew before. It will also make you feel like you’re doing something good.”

Gemma Guerin, 31 – EMT, Mother, Volunteer

This is the second in our special National Volunteering Week series where we speak to seven volunteers about what they do, why they do it and what advice they have for others. Share your story with us on Twitter using #WhyIVolunteer and #NVW2019.

Gemma lives in Kells, Co. Meath with her husband Mick and 5 year old son, Dylan. She works from home full time with ebay.

Just over 10 years ago, Gemma’s now husband Mick gave a friend a dig out by doing a bit of driving for the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps in Navan. Out of sheer nosiness, Gemma decided to go along to see what it was all about. 10 years later, Gemma is now the Officer in Charge of the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps’ Kells unit. In that time, Gemma has trained all the way up to Emergency Medical Technician and taken on a number of roles with the organisation. Most of her time has been spent with the cadets (10 – 16 year olds), training them and supporting them to use theirs skills at smaller duties and events.

Gemma describes herself as an ‘accidental volunteer’ so we asked her why she’s still there 10 years later. “You just get the bug. You get to meet an amazing circle of people and they’re now my second family. I know they’d be there for me in a heartbeat if I needed something and I’d do the same for them, which is especially important on occasions where we deal with difficult scenes. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and we do have great craic too. You need to have a sense of humour to sit in an ambulance all day if nothing is going on!”

“There’s also that sense of giving back and making a difference. When we do transports to hospital appointments, sometimes that’s the only interaction that person has all week and just being able to sit there and listen to them is a real privilege. We can also identify other ways we can support people through our community care team and that feeling of helping someone is unbeatable.”

What would Gemma say to someone who has never volunteered before? “Pop along, have a conversation and a cup of tea. If it’s not for you, you can find something else but you’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a go.”

Patrick McMahon, 56 – Farmer, Conservationist, Volunteer

This is the first in our special National Volunteering Week series where we speak to seven volunteers about what they do, why they do it and what advice they have for others. Share your story with us on Twitter using #WhyIVolunteer and #NVW2019.

Patrick is a farmer from Hackballscross in Co. Louth. Mostly farming cattle, he manages the farm by himself. He recently discovered bats and barn owls in some of his farm buildings and contacted some conservationists to come and check it out. Now his farm is registered as a protected natural area.

Although Patrick is busy with the farm and has little free time, he still finds ways to give back. Last year, he raised over €34,000 for Temple Street at the National Ploughing Championships. Having seen an ad in the paper, he approached Temple Street about getting involved. When they asked what he thought he’d like to do, he suggested they fundraise at the ploughing and used his contacts to make it all happen.

On Day 1, Patrick could see that it might be difficult to get people’s attention with so many things going on at the event. He decided to organise some games and after setting up some skittles, he had queues of families looking to play and donate within a couple of hours!

Patrick helps out in other ways when he can like selling lollipops at the most recent Lollipop Day or helping out at the Southern Area Hospice in Newry.

With such a busy life and lots to contend with on the farm, we asked Patrick why he goes out of his way to get involved. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. It’s a social thing – I work alone on the farm all day and when I do this I meet a lot of different people and have a chat. It’s always in the back of my mind, I don’t have a lot of free time but when I do I try to do something. Even if I have to plan it a few months in advance so I know I’m free. If it’s something you want to do, you make the time.”