This National Volunteering Week, we’re celebrating the contributions volunteers make in our communities. Kate McHugh from Laois Integration Network tells us about promoting cultural diversity, integration, and inclusion in Co Laois.

Karen McHugh is so passionate about equality and human rights that volunteering full-time “just comes naturally”. Karen volunteers with the Laois Integration Network, promoting cultural diversity, integration, and inclusion in Co Laois.

The Laois Integration Network started in 2016 when a Syrian resettlement programme was underway in Laois. Those involved found that a network was needed to promote integration and inclusion. The Laois Integration Network has developed and continued ever since.

The Network arranges vibrant intercultural events around Laois to promote inclusion and understanding: “Our most recent event was an open day in a mosque in Portlaoise on 14 May,” Karen says. “And we have an intercultural festival on 24 May. We have a music diversity event in early June. By the end of June, we intend to hold a seminar on ‘Laois as a Place of Sanctuary and Welcome’. We’re also working on an anti-rumours project challenging myths and stereotypes around prejudices and racism.”

The Laois Integration Network has also been busy coordinating a local response to the Ukrainian war. “We have a temporary Zero Cost Shop in Portlaoise town centre,” Karen explains. “Everything is zero cost to people who need items. It’s incredibly busy.”

What does Karen enjoy about volunteering? “I enjoy being able to make a difference and take action, to be able to change perceptions, to motivate others to get involved. I’ve acquired new friends and new skills through volunteering. I think everything you do is an opportunity to gain new skills and learn from others.

“I believe it’s a duty to either give time or give money. I follow that principle. I choose to give time in this instance. It takes an awful lot of time! But I think it’s important for everybody to give even a small amount of their time. There are plenty of opportunities for volunteering for everybody. You get more out of it than you give. It’s very rewarding.”

Thank you to Karen for sharing a Volunteer Story with us this National Volunteering Week. Please DM us or email [email protected] if you’d like to share yours! #MyVolunteerStory

#NVW2022 #CelebrateVolunteers

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