Ruth Fagan, Volunteering Development Officer talks about what community means during the Covid-19 crisis

So first off I want to give a massive thank you to each and every one of you that has signed up to help us right now.  So much of what we are currently exposed to is utterly overwhelming but let me tell you on behalf of all of the team, the response that we have witnessed from the public is utterly overwhelming in the most positive way. I’m deeply grateful to work in the heart of the community and be witness to the heart of the community at this point in a time that feels so fragile. I’d love to share some of what that means to me here.

The thing I love most about my job is that people tell me their story.

People tell me their stories and in telling me their story people show their vulnerability and their courage at the same time, people offer themselves, and in the offering they receive hope, hope that they are doing something important, hope that they will feel better, hope that they can help their community or a cause that is really close to their heart, hope that they will feel more connected and in doing so gain a truer sense of their own self-worth.

People tell me that because of the adversity they have faced they want to give back. It’s deeply humbling to facilitate this on our tiny office in the West End of Galway city.

We will all have our own personal story of the Covid-19 crisis which will remain intimate to only ourselves. And when all returns to our new normality we will share our stories, we’ll share them in our families, in our workplaces, down the local pub, in our local club, within our communities where they will remain and where they will be held. And despite the fact that each and every one of us will have our own unique story there will be a commonality for all of us, a strong thread of common humanity and solidarity and hope.

I recall one of our fantastic colleagues in Volunteer Ireland emailing the national network of volunteer centres at the very start of this crisis and she pointed out that we’re doing what we’ve always been doing just more intensely right now. And for me, this speaks volumes for what’s happening in the heart of our communities.

We’re being kinder, we’re staying more connected, we’re helping out more, we’re thinking of the most vulnerable more, and we’re offering more gratitude for all the good stuff we have in our lives – the simple things like going for a walk and listening to the birds, friends and family and laughter and for all the love that we have in our life.

Without sounding like Michael D Higgins I truly believe that Ireland is a nation that is resilient, and I believe that this resilience comes from our knowing of what community is, it’s in our DNA- we know what kindness and connection is, we know how important it is to look out for those most vulnerable and indeed to reach out when we are most vulnerable.

One thing I often encounter when I meet people who walk through our door down the west is a sense of uncertainty around whether what they can offer is enough. People might ask me  “Will my English be enough?”… “Will my experience be enough?”… “Will my time be enough? –  And the message I so passionately aim to extend to each of them is Yes- because you are enough, your gift of service is enough, a gift that you offer in your vulnerability and your bravery that not only enriches your life but enriches our community. Thank you.

Right now we are all feeling vulnerable and we are all reaching out to help and be helped.

Thank you!