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May New Research Shows Volunteers Making Major Impact in Rural Communities
A new report published today 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 – 20th May) 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.”