Ciara Herity, manager of the Sligo Volunteer Centre, talks about her experience as 2017 European Volunteering Capital.
The European Volunteering Capital is coming to an end. What is your general assessment?
It was a great year for the volunteer community in Sligo. We had the opportunity to shine the light on volunteerism, its benefits, its rewards and its impact. The wider community got to appreciate more what volunteers do, and very importantly, people who never recognised or called themselves volunteers at all, are standing tall and valuing their contribution.
From your point of view, what has been the most relevant benefit for Sligo?
Many national events came to Sligo that would not normally do so. This meant a certain economic benefit which was great. It was an opportunity to connect the Community & voluntary sector to the business sphere. In general the community as a whole came together to celebrate volunteers and volunteering in Sligo.
In your opinion, what do you think that Europe needs to make the difference in this field?
I think that progress is being made in this sphere. I think many things need to change at a policy level to ensure that the sector is resourced adequately, but also finding a balance between bureaucracy and the natural instincts of people to volunteer and contribute to their community and be active citizens. Too much bureaucracy can stifle this.
Personally, what has been the best memory during this experience? Can you explain that?
There was a Churches Together service held during the year. It was organised by a groups of Christian Churches in Sligo. There was a broad mix of religions, nationalities and backgrounds. Many people got up and spoke about what volunteering in their Church meant to them. There was uplifting singing and stories. It was fantastic to see so many communities – some very new to Sligo and Ireland – taking part and so happy to contribute to their communities.
What do you wish for Aarhus, the European volunteering capital in 2018? What is your advice for them?
Sligo wishes them all the best. I would advise them to make it their own – there is no formula that works the same in everyplace. Include the communities and the volunteers as much as possible. It is because of them that the title is made possible. I learned that people were very proud to identify with the title and with being part of it in their homeplace.