Social Work and Social Inclusion

Jim Moore, Friends of the Elderly, Dublin

Jim is 86 years old and has volunteered with Friends for the past 18 years. He first came to friends after retirement and having experienced widowhood. For 18 years Jim has taken on many roles: be-friender in the social club, mentor to our interns, fundraising, tours assistant, charity shop worker, and many more roles in our organisation. He is is the oldest volunteer in the organisation and without fail he is up and ready and willing to take on the day with great gusto. Over the past 18 years he has remained dedicated and loyal and when he sometimes tires of particular roles he likes to switch to offer help in new areas and this gives him a new energy.He never misses his shift and remains flexible around his other volunteering roles which he currently has, such as with his own community in Finglas in the church and the bingo hall. His current role is in our charity shop on Friday and Saturday and the customers love him.

Jim offers friendly advice and shares his life experiences with overseas volunteers who take a real interest in history and the Irish culture. He mentors new volunteers and keeps the Transition year students on their toes, so they get the best from their short placements. Jim will always look for new ways to help the organisation and on many occasions will advocate for other members or for a change to the way we operate. He is first and foremost a dedicated volunteer but he is so much more to the people we serve and the programmes the organisation runs. He is such an inspiration to all who get the opportunity to work with him.

Mary Fitzgerald, Haven Horizons, Clare

From an early age Mary wanted to make a difference to people’s lives. In her teens, she was moved by the pictures on TV of the street children in India and children in Romania. Mary volunteered with the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta and in a Romanian orphanage.

Mary was touched by the plight of Clare families fleeing from domestic abuse who were forced to sleep in the Gardaí station.  Mary took some of these women and children into her own home and then decided she needed to do something more. Mary got a small group of people together and they co-founded the charity, Clare Haven Services in 1993. Collaboration with Respond Housing Association led to the provision of 24hr emergency refuge accommodation. Clare Haven’s frontline support services and educational programmes have helped hundreds of women and children who have experienced domestic abuse.

After 20 years, Mary recognised the need to focus on long-term solutions, break the cycle of domestic abuse and to stop young people from going into unhealthy relationships. Haven Horizons was set-up to establish prevention programmes which address the lack of awareness and education around the underlying causes of domestic abuse and to promote international models of good practice which change public attitudes and professional responses.  Mary has worked to bring the team from the Blueprint for Safety model (St. Paul, Minnesota) to Ireland to promote the establishment of a Demonstration Division in Co. Clare. The Blueprint for Safety is a criminal justice response to domestic abuse that prioritises the safety of women and children and accountability of the perpetrator which has saved the lives of women and children in St. Paul.

Mary has also been generous and given her time to support other people’s personal journey or their vision for a better future.

Sheila Busher, Arklow Community Action Resource Centre, Wicklow

Sheila has been helping her community for 15 years. Whatever the day or hour, if there is a person who is in trouble, homeless or vulnerable, in need of an advocate to represent them to local Councillors and services or just in need of a friendly non judgmental ear, Sheila is there for them. Sheila is also lucky to have the support of many volunteers and the local community.

Currently she organises two nights of the Foodcloud deliveries to over 160 families who text in if they wish to receive a delivery 6 nights a week. Sheila receives the texts and then gathers the food from Tesco & Aldi & other donations from local growers & suppliers. The food is then divided and sorted to family/individual portions according to need by Sheila & her team of volunteers. Finally the boxes are sorted into routes for volunteer drivers to deliver. Along with the food, Sheila also identifies other needs and delivers clothes, bedding, furniture & toys to those that need it most. Sheila also looks after a ladies knitting group, a men’s mental health group and is regularly called by other services in the community if someone presents as homeless out of hours.

When she sees an issue in the community she will try to highlight it to those that have the power and resources to change things and if possible, try and do something about it in the centre. She has had a lot of struggles in life and always believes that out of negative there will come a positive.