Lending a Hand: Young People and Volunteering in Ireland
Today, Fergus Finlay, Chair of Volunteer Ireland, unveiled the National Youth Council of Ireland’s report ‘Lending a Hand: Young People and Volunteering in Ireland’ at the Mansion House in Dublin.
The first comprehensive report on young people’s experience of and attitude towards volunteering in Ireland, our report marks the European Year of Volunteering and celebrates International Day of Volunteering.
The results provide a timely insight into the untapped potential of youth volunteering and the barriers many young people still face.
“Volunteering not only benefits young people and society in the short term, but, by allowing young people to participate in activities, organize events, engage in decision making and in the development of their own projects, helps them to become responsible, critical and committed citizens which has a beneficial impact in the longer term,” stated James Doorley, Assistant Director at the National Youth Council of Ireland.
Some of the key recommendations to emerge from the report are:
We have not fully tapped the potential for youth volunteering, although it is clear that many young people are volunteering in their community and that this benefits Irish society
A rebrand of volunteering and national awareness campaign is needed
Information campaigns need to focus on periods such as transition year where young people have time and space to engage
The launch of a national and regional series of taster opportunities was called for
“Young people are enthusiastic to get involved and become engaged citizens, and this is more important than ever now, when we need to stick together to get through the tough times ahead. So it is vital that we work to remove the barriers young people have identified, and ensure that opportunities are not diminished in the wake of the cuts we are facing” continued Mr Doorley.
Key findings of the research include:
Many young people involved in volunteer activities don’t recognize the term “volunteering” or see themselves as volunteers, this is something volunteer organisations need to understand and address.
Young people felt that there had been a shift in attitudes as a result of the recession from what you have in society to what you can give to society. This made it more likely that young people would volunteer.
The main reasons why young people decide to volunteer is that they were personally “asked to” and where they have an affinity with the organisation or cause.
Transition Year in school is important in allowing young people time and space to consider and experience volunteering. Most of the rest of time is spent focusing on exams.
To retain young volunteers, organisations need to be flexible and recognise their limited time. They also need to treat young volunteers with respect and not just assign menial tasks.
Among the barriers to young people volunteering were lack of time and information, unwillingness to make the first move, feeling they were too young and the costs and logistics involved.
“The National Youth Council has an established track record in the area of volunteering and the promotion of volunteering by young people. This report represents an excellent starting point for our work together with government departments and voluntary organisations to ensure that volunteerism remains at the heart of Irish society, and that we all work together to ensure that the unlimited potential of young volunteers does not remain untapped,’ concluded Mr Doorley.