“The volunteers are 100 per cent vital. They play a massive role. We couldn’t do this without the support, effort and time that the volunteers commit to.”
This is the heartfelt view of Maureen Collins, who facilitates the Monday Club for older people at the Gasworks.
The club provides a programme of activities for older people between 2pm and 4:30pm, on a Monday afternoon.
This includes dances, mind working exercises such as reminiscence, quizzes and bingo, as well as arts and crafts and refreshments.
It is run by the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum in conjunction with Neighbourhood Assist at Dove House.
The ordinary volunteers are the lifeblood of the club.
The volunteers are part of the Volunteer Investment Project, and work in partnership with many different organisations in a range of volunteering roles.
The organisations are based in the Triax area.
Caroline Harkin, Volunteer Investment Project Co-ordinator based at the Gasyard Centre, explains:
“The Volunteer Investment Project’s main aim is to promote volunteering as a stepping stone for all ages and abilities.
“And at the same time to encourage and sustain a sense of self confidence and well being for people within the local community.”
Currently there are 79 permanent volunteers, ranging from ages 14 to 75, but this can go up to more than 200 over Feile time, according to Caroline.
The projects that the Volunteer Investment Project is involved in are wide and varied. Ultimately volunteers go where there is a need.
With the Monday Club membership now sitting at 68 and an average weekly attendance of 45, an extra pair of hands is often needed to get the job done.
“There are 45 people there needing tea, needing gentle exercise, dishes need done, bingo books need given out, activities need to be dealt with. So we have the volunteers here who play a massive vital role. We couldn’t do this without the support, effort and time that volunteers give and commit to it,” says Maureen.
Brigid who has been attending the Monday Club for as long as she can remember credits it with keeping her active
“If you were sitting in the house you’d probably be nodding off watching tv.
“But when you’re at the Monday Club you’re among friends your own age, having tea and a chat, playing bingo and once a month they have a dance which is really enjoyable.”
Bridie, another regular explains that it also keeps her mind active.
“Sometimes there is reminiscing, sometimes there is quizzes, chatting with people, it all helps to keep your mind alert and active.”
Volunteers themselves get involved for a variety of reasons.
Whether it is to get out of the house for a few hours, meet new people, learn new skills, gain work experience, have fun, make a change or support the development of their community.
Mardie, a volunteer for five months, explains that having raised three children she had some spare time on her hands.
“I found that when my children were grown up there was a void. It’s about self-fulfilment. I get a lot out of it.
It’s great for older people too as often they are overlooked in the community.”
Deidre, a volunteer for three years, was inspired to join by an old school friend and has never looked back
“Due to illness I had given up my job and I was bored sitting in the house.
“I thought that’s a good idea and it took me out of the house and I met new people and made new friends. I get on really well with older people it gives me a lift as well as them. It’s been a very positive experience for me.”
Caroline, co-ordinator of the VIP is keen to stress that everyone is welcome regardless of skills, background or interests.
“And that anytime Volunteers can give is greatly appreciated.
“Volunteers are pulled in for a wide range of volunteering.
As co-ordinator I make sure that volunteering is flexible around the individual and their needs.
“Volunteers can come in for one hour a week, once a month or to help out with events like Feile, or the St Patricks day festival.
“We tend to work around where people’s interest lies and usually with the wide range of projects going on we have something for everyone. And because there are so many different projects people have the opportunity to change or try out different projects that are going on.
Training is also provided if needed and there is the option for one to one support and supervision once a month.”
Ultimately for everyone involved it’s about having fun.
Bernie, who is a full-time carer with children and has been volunteering for four years puts it simply.Its time out for me to be honest, although I’m out helping people it’s helping me too.
“The craic is brilliant, they love it and so do I.”
*The Volunteer Investment Project is funded by the Department for Social Development.