An exciting and newly devised programme promoting volunteerism in the community was officially launched in Donegal at the weekend by Phil Hogan TD, Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government.
Devised by the Donegal Local Development Company Ltd. (DLDC), the programme is very much targeted at unemployed and socially excluded young persons from disadvantaged areas in the Donegal border area.
It has a particular focus on equipping participants with the skills and motivation to pursue volunteering opportunities in the region and to explore life/career paths alternative to mainstream employment.
Delivering his key note speech at the launch event, Minister Phil Hogan said: “It is great to see worthwhile initiatives such as this Cross Community Project being launched here today, which will target unemployed, disadvantaged and socially excluded young persons.
“Measures like this don’t happen by themselves they require a lot of thought, planning and hard work to bring them about, and I congratulate Donegal Local Development Company and the International Fund for Ireland for facilitating this project.
“Volunteering is central to the ideals of democracy, social inclusion and active citizenship. It is also an expression of the individual’s involvement in their community. The giving of time for others strengthens the fabric of our societies and defines the communities in which we live.
“The primary role of my Department in regard to the Community and Voluntary sector is to encourage and facilitate communities, with a special focus on areas of disadvantage, to pursue social and economic progress in their areas. The implementation of measures to encourage volunteering and support active citizenship is an essential element to the success of this strategy.”
The ‘Volunteering in the Community’ Programme has been primarily funded by The International Fund for Ireland (IFI), who earlier this year committed €236,750 under its Community Based Economic and Social Regeneration Programme.
The Volunteering in the Community Programme, which will integrate with the President’s Gaisce Awards Scheme, will be delivered in seven courses of 12 weeks duration over a two and a half year period. Each course will have a participant rate of 10 persons which will cover such topics as volunteerism, reconciliation at both the personal and community level and personal skills training.
Speaking on behalf of the International Fund for Ireland, Winston Patterson, Board member of the IFI said: “We are delighted that the IFI is supporting such a worthy programme in the Donegal border region. At its core, this programme will target young vulnerable people and provide them with the opportunity to consider and action positive life choices, as opposed to becoming easy prey for negative influences, and experience at first hand, the opportunities and benefits of local community-based volunteerism.”
Mr Patterson also expressed a collective thanks to the international donors who have supported the work of the International Fund for Ireland for almost twenty-five years: namely, the United States of America, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Speaking at Saturday’s launch event, John Starrett, Vice Chairman of DLDC said: “The content of the courses will have many positive elements, but most importantly, it will allow youth to examine their lives and that of their communities in the context of the times in which we live. It will give them the time and the space and with full professional supports, to consider the possible paths of their lives and to explore positive, fulfilling personal options.
“While some will progress into employment as a result, others will no doubt find that difficult for a period. This course will emphasise that employment is not the only path to personal and community fulfilment. It will allow those participating on the course to consider the benefits of volunteering, both for themselves and their communities and explore real, rewarding options in local volunteering.”
DLDC is a local development company which has a strong track record in delivering local development programmes addressing the social, economic, cultural and environmental development of its catchment region, which primarily covers the towns/villages in that region of Donegal outside the Gaeltacht and Inishowen. Employment creation and reconciliation initiatives have been a particularly strong element of the company’s work to date.
The official opening event was held on Saturday, 21st May at the Lakeside Centre, Ballyshannon and was attended by over 60 guests, including a wide range of local representatives, community groups and voluntary organisations.