I am usually a bit wary of ‘-isms’. Most of them seem to carry a negative meaning. Fascism, racism, that kind of thing. One -ism I am a big fan of, however, is ‘volunteerism’. This -ism is ‘The use or involvement of volunteer labour, especially in community services,’ which was the first definition I found online. It seems kind of appropriate, I think.

I have always volunteered my time. My parents did a lot of it, and I kind of followed suit, starting when I was 16 as the secretary of Staffordshire Table Tennis county league In England. It was a way of paying back the time others had spent on me. These days we would probably say ‘paying it forward’. Thinking back to my last few years in Athenry, I am secretary of Athenry Community Council and I am a volunteer with COPE Galway, who help people experiencing homelessness, domestic abuse and elderly isolation. I have huge admiration for people in the caring professions, none more so than right now, but I am not cut out for that, I find it too upsetting, so I volunteer instead.

I am not a total angel of course. I have also been involved in the Athenry Scouts, Athenry Tennis Club, the Coláiste parents’ council, and the Glade Property Management Company. In these I have had a vested interest, but I still volunteer. Volunteering makes me feel good, and I also get to find out what is going on. All my volunteering when added up is probably a day a month, maybe two days, maximum.

When you volunteer it is about helping others, but it is really good for you too. It is proven to make you happy. It is proven to help you manage stress, anxiety, anger, depression, lack of confidence and loneliness. It can be good for your career too, as it is an excellent way to get into something new.  Take a look around Athenry and you will see lots of people volunteering with shopping or messages for others, keeping the town tidy, with sports, social and community groups; the list goes on. As volunteers of Athenry Community Council we do not have an allotment, some of us are not from here originally, and most of us hardly ever use the playground, the tennis courts, the hurling pitches, or the Community Hall. We are unpaid, but we still get a kick out of making the facilities available for everyone, especially as we continue to re-open. Some folk on the Council have been doing this for decades.

Maybe you have not volunteered yet because you’re worried about the time commitment, or you don’t know who to approach. If you do not currently volunteer, now is a great time to give a couple of hours here and there. You can even do it from home or in a socially distancing way. We would love to have you at the Community Council. We can only do as much as the people we have. Send an email to athenrycommunitycouncil@gmail.com and we’ll come back to you.

Paul Dilger is Secretary of Athenry Community Council, which is responsible for the Athenry Lotto, Athenry News & Views, and a number of properties in the town.