Minister Joe O’Brien holds event to thank volunteers for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic

20th May, 2022

  • volunteers thanked for their invaluable contribution during the pandemic
  • event held in Dublin Castle by the Minister of State, with regional events around the country
  • recognition of volunteers comes during National Volunteer Week 2022

Joe O’Brien, Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities, hosted an event on Thursday 19 May to acknowledge the enormous contribution made by volunteers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and thank them for their invaluable work and supports during a very difficult time.

Speaking at the event, Minister O’Brien said:

The event I am hosting today, in collaboration with Volunteer Ireland, is in recognition of the vital role played by volunteers during the pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, volunteers around the country ensured that the most vulnerable and hard to reach members of our community were supported. Their contribution, no matter how small, was absolutely crucial when so many of our population were isolating.  Back in March 2020, the country was called on to step up and the response by volunteers was staggering. Thousands of volunteers in communities across Ireland came forward to provide help. Their good will, generosity and selfless hard work meant that that we could work together to successfully support the most vulnerable members of our communities during the pandemic. Volunteers fulfil an extraordinary role. They show us that when times are hardest, the best of us show up, ready to help. I thank each and every person who stepped forward to help, for your dedication, and for your magnificent contribution.

Personally, volunteering has changed my life for the better. Some of the most positive and impactful experiences in my life have been volunteering ones. That is why I’m especially happy that we are acknowledging volunteering in a significant and big way tonight because I have seen its power and impact throughout my 20 years working in the community in voluntary sector but especially in the last 2 years or so since I became Minister and have had to opportunity to see so much of what is being done nationally by volunteers.

It was great to meet with volunteers and organisers personally including Chiara Tamborini from the Fingal Volunteer Centre. 

Research, carried out by Volunteer Ireland, has found that 75% of people volunteered in some way during the COVID-19 restrictions. This is a strong indicator of the generosity and determination of the people of Ireland to share, to be a part of communities and to benefit others.

Mr Peter O’Brien, who volunteered with the Aviva test and vaccination centre, said:

The reasons people volunteer are as diverse as the individuals who respond to a call to action but one thing we all have in common is that we feel we have something to offer.

Earlier this year, the Minister of State launched the Volunteer Ireland nomination web portal to accept nominations from relevant organisations of volunteers who made a contribution to their community during the pandemic. Volunteers nominated through the portal attended the event in Dublin Castle, as well as events in counties around the country, being held to honour their work during the pandemic.

In line with the National Volunteering Strategy, the events highlighted the unique value and contribution of volunteers to Irish society. It was an opportunity for Government to acknowledge how important volunteering is to the well-being of our communities, and in particular the enormous impact volunteers had during the last two years.

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Impact of Volunteering:

  • over 1 million people in Ireland volunteer each year (according to CSO 2013 QNHS). Annually, this adds up to an economic contribution of €5 billion per year (this is based on the value of the 232.8 million hours given average industrial wage).
  • in a normal year, about 15,000 new people register on the volunteering database I-Vol. In 2020, as a result of mobilising a huge number of additional volunteers in response to COVID-19, that number will be around 35,000-40,000.
  • volunteering has significant benefits to the health and well-being of those who volunteer and by extension their communities – in a 2018 survey, 51% of volunteers reported that their physical health and wellbeing had improved and 62% reported that their mental health and wellbeing had improved. Volunteering also supports those in unemployment to return to the workforce by helping them develop skills and build confidence.

National Volunteering Strategy 2021-2025:

  • the National Volunteering Strategy 2021-2025 is a five-year strategy (2021-2025) comprising a suite of policy and strategic initiatives led by the Department of Rural and Community Development to support not-for-profit organisations in community development, local development, social enterprise, and community and voluntary sectors.
  • its purpose is to recognise, support and promote the unique value and contribution of volunteers to Irish society, and its publication was an acknowledgment by Government of the importance of volunteering to the well-being of the nation.
  • the strategy is a whole-of-government framework to support the voluntary sector, the development of which involved extensive public consultations.
  • it sets five high level objectives, with a total of 56 associated actions.
  • the strategy builds upon and strengthens the renewed relationship and partnership between government and the voluntary sectors which has developed during the course of its preparation.
  • together with the Strategy to Support the Community and Voluntary Sectors in Ireland and the National Policy on Social Enterprise, the strategy is the final part of a suite of policy initiatives to support the full range of organisations that are providing services to communities.
  • the strategy is underpinned by the values and principles agreed by the National Advisory Group (representative of all stakeholders established to assist in the development of the Strategy), and includes a range of actions to support volunteers and their representative organisations.

National Volunteering Week:

  • National Volunteering Week is a week-long celebration of volunteering that takes place every year during the third week of May, coordinated by Volunteer Ireland. A local and national communications campaign supported by a programme of events is taking place this year from 16-22 May 2022.
  • the theme for 2022 is Celebrate Volunteers!, focusing on celebrating the achievements of volunteers throughout the pandemic and beyond. It involves a range of events, stories and videos to showcase all that is great about volunteering.