Volunteer Ireland
Connecting Communities Through Volunteering

Small Group Awardees 2020

We are so proud to announce this years winners in the Small Group Category. This year we are celebrating three outstanding volunteer groups in each category.

Read each of their inspiring stories below.

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Ballyhaunis Inclusion Project, Mayo

This group of four women provide support services for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants across the country. They also advocate for inclusion and diversity so that no one is left behind in society.

The group started as a mere idea of one exceptional lady who was concerned about the way asylum seekers were being treated in the direct provision centre. As a result of this, the founder reached out to those she feels are passionate about making a change in the lives of others and so Ballyhaunis Inclusion Project was formed.

The group ensures that fellow residents are treated humanely by the management of the centre, hence, they double as the residents committee for the centre. Their roles include taking up complaints from residents to the management and conveying messages from the management to the residents.

Two of the ladies are in full-time employment and studying at the same time, while the other two are in full-time education in UCD and AIT respectively. Despite having a lot going on in their personal lives, they still make themselves available to fellow asylum seekers across the country. The group works round the clock and are always available whenever any of them is in distress.

They have run a range of projects including a bicycle donation scheme for children in the centre; a parent support group; information sessions on domestic violence; and helping new residents transferred to the centre to navigate their way through the settling-down period.

Irish Cancer Society –Parent Peer to Peer Support Network, Dublin

Parent Peer Support is a free service run by the Irish Cancer Society for families of children, adolescents and young adults with cancer in partnership with Childhood Cancer Foundation Ireland, CanTeen Ireland and CanCare4Living. All of these volunteers have a child who has been treated for cancer. Parent Peer volunteers understand what it means to have your child experience treatment and the consequences it has for all of the family. These volunteers are passionate about supporting other parents who are going through this very difficult time. The parent peer volunteers are a specific and unique group within the Society’s broader Survivor Support Programme. The group is available seven days a week to take referrals and make calls.

The parent volunteers listen with patience and empathy whilst also providing practical information based on their own experience. Having a child diagnosed with and going through cancer treatment can be one of the most difficult things parents and families can experience. The volunteers are keenly aware of this and that is why they provide this support.

They alone know what it feels like to hear the words “your child has cancer”. They have a unique insight into the worry and distress this diagnosis can cause. Having gone through this very difficult time and come out the other side the Parent Volunteers then choose to step back into the world of childhood cancer in order to help other families.

Irish Red Cross – D15 Unit, Dublin

The Dublin 15 team are a unit of the Irish Red Cross Society. The all-volunteer team provides first aid, ambulance services and support services to their community and beyond. This could be something as simple as providing shopping services for vulnerable people during COVID-19, or helping people when they get ill or injured at events and festivals.

The group exists to relieve suffering wherever it may be found. They do this through providing first aid, community support services, social care, training, and education.

During “non-COVID” times activities would include providing first aid and ambulance services at many events and festivals. COVID-19 was the most recent example of the dedication of the group. The teams were receiving phone calls, emails, texts from people wanting to donate clothing, food, essentials, donations. This meant the unit leader would often have to call upon the team multiple times a day to go out in their own cars and collect items from businesses and kind community members. This is in-between all of the other essential services like education outreach, shopping, prescriptions, and responding to calls to the community support helpline.

During the pandemic, the group reached out to local pharmacies, supermarkets, shops and other essential services to ensure they were aware they could call them, and if they wanted them to check on any of their vulnerable customers to see if they needed anything.

This summer alone, the group delivered 100s of meals on wheels through partnership with the local development bodies and the HSE. These volunteers put in an incredible 4,000+ hours each year in the community.