New Research Shows Volunteers Making Major Impact In Rural Communities

A new report published by Volunteer Ireland and NUI Galway explores how volunteering impacts the development and sustainability of rural communities. The report was launched at NUI Galway to mark National Volunteering Week (14th – 20thMay) by Minister Sean Kyne TD, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources and Pat Spillane, Ambassador for the Action Plan for Rural Ireland.

Drawing on personal interviews and survey data, the report identifies a range of important impacts that volunteers have on rural communities. This includes positive impacts on rural infrastructure, the local economy, inhabitants themselves, social links and culture. For example, the research illustrates that volunteers play a critical role in providing local services such as children’s facilities; creating employment and improving the economy by delivering local festivals; and creating social links by fostering opportunities to meet new and diverse people. Both interviewees and survey respondents felt that volunteers were vital to sustaining rural communities.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Volunteer Ireland’s Nina Arwitz, said: “Volunteering has a huge role to play in building healthy, connected communities and this is true especially in rural communities. Facing issues such as emigration and isolation, volunteers provide the social fabric of many rural communities. This research highlights not only the wide ranging impacts of volunteering on communities but also the less tangible benefits such as a sense of belonging and connection to one’s community.”

NUI Galway’s Dr Maura Farrell, who led the research, continued: “Many rural communities are highly dependent on local volunteers to ensure the availability of services and facilities. Engaging our rural youth in sport; becoming a companion to an elderly neighbour or enabling a rural development project are only snapshots of what is achieved by rural volunteers, who are the drivers of rural sustainability and development and the heroes of many rural communities.”

Launching the report, Minister Kyne added: “Volunteers make a difference to communities across Ireland every day. I’m delighted to launch this research demonstrating the very real impact that volunteers have on rural communities in particular. Whether people volunteer with an organisation or simply lend a neighbour a hand, they make a critical contribution to sustainable, cohesive communities.”

eTownz CEO Pat Kennedy explained “When working with communities we focus on understanding and developing the assets within the community. Local volunteers are often the most important asset of a community and this research helped to shine a light on the huge impact they have in communities across rural Ireland.”

Finally, Ms Arwitz noted: “This research has evidenced something we’ve known to be true for a long time – volunteering builds better communities. We work to foster this through the national network of local Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services that provide support to communities and advice to both organisations and volunteers. Together we aim to make sure that everyone feels connected to their community through volunteering. Research like this is key to informing our work.”

About Volunteer Ireland

Volunteer Ireland is the national volunteer development organisation and a support body for all local Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services in Ireland. Our vision is every person connected to and participating in their communities to build a better Irish society. Volunteer Ireland works to increase awareness of, access to and quality in volunteering in Ireland. For further information, visit: http://www.volunteer.ie/

About Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services

The 21 Volunteer Centres provide a placement service between individuals and groups who want to undertake voluntary activity and organisations that are seeking to involve volunteers. Volunteer Centres are the local leaders in community engagement, supporting and promoting volunteering. The aims of the 8 Volunteering Information Services in Ireland are the same as Volunteer Centres. As Volunteering Information Services are at the first stage of development of a Volunteer Centre, they provide a basic service, hosting a website and providing access to the I-VOL database. A list of Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services can be found here.

About NUI Galway

The University was established in the heart of Galway City, on the west coast of Ireland, in 1845. Since then it has advanced knowledge teaching and learning, through research and innovation, and community engagement.

Over 18,000 students study at NUI Galway, where 2,600 staff provide the very best in research-led education.

NUI Galway’s teaching and research is recognised through its consistent rise in international rankings. The University is placed in the Top 250 of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2017/2018, as well as the QS World University Rankings 2017/18, which places us in the Top 1% worldwide.

In the heart of the West of Ireland and peripheral Europe, NUI Galway is ideally placed as a leading university examining processes of social, cultural and economic change for rural inhabitants.  The Discipline of Geography in particular have many dedicated staff, Postdoctoral Researchers and PhD students committed to rural research and teaching and to date have been highly successful in obtaining both national and international research funding to explore pertinent rural issues.

About eTownz

A company called eTownz undertook analysis of volunteer data as part of this project. eTownz have developed an online planning tool called the “eTownz Dashboard” and work with communities to help them prepare and initiate local development plans.

About the Report on Rural Volunteerism: Impacting Development and Sustainability

The most unfaltering and persistent aspect of rural Ireland is its volunteerism.  Flourishing or declining rural economies all rely on the activities and actions of volunteers to ensure services are delivered and facilities are provided.  This report documents the extent and impact of volunteerism in rural communities throughout Ireland by drawing on research carried out in NUI Galway and by Volunteer Ireland.  The report highlights the essential role rural volunteers’ play in the sustainability and development of many rural regions, in particular in the areas of sport, care services and rural development.  The research highlights that on a consistent basis, tangible and quantifiable enhancements are made to the quality of life of rural inhabitants as a result of volunteer activities carried out in rural villages, towns and peripheral areas throughout Ireland.  The report provides a short literature review in addition to the results of extensive primary data collections from Irish rural volunteers.  The full report can be accessed here.

About National Volunteering Week

National Volunteering Week takes place during the third week of May each year and this year will run from 14th – 20th May 2018.  It is a whole week dedicated to highlighting volunteering across Ireland and is run in partnership with the network of Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services. This year’s theme is Volunteering Builds Better Communities. We are delighted to partner with Healthy Ireland for this year’s National Volunteering Week as we come together to support healthy, connected communities across Ireland.

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