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The volunteer option

The total number of volunteering hours in Irish charities increased by 38% between 2018 and 2022

It’s not all about the price tag. Volunteering can be just as valuable to charities as monetary donations.

And not only are there are lots of volunteering opportunities available but all the evidence suggests you’ll get back way more than you could ever put in.

That may be why so many people do it. According to the Charities Regulator volunteers contributed an estimated €1 billion worth of their time to Irish charities in 2022.

It estimates that the total number of volunteering hours in Irish charities increased by 38 per cent between 2018 and 2022 and now stands at 94 million hours per year.


The economic value of this volunteering is significant. If Irish charities paid their volunteers for the time worked, the cost in 2022 would have been €0.96 billion based on the minimum wage, or almost €2.5 billion if volunteers were paid the average hourly wage.

It found that just under 648,000 people did some voluntary work for charities, equivalent to almost one in five of the total adult population.

“Irish people are hugely generous with their time when it comes to supporting charities, and this report highlights a substantial increase in volunteering over the past few years,” says Helen Martin, chief executive of the Charities Regulator.

According to Volunteer Ireland, Ireland is ranked number one in Europe and 10 in the world for volunteering time on the World Giving Index.

“The number of people volunteering has doubled since 2018, so it’s really important part of the Ireland we live in today,” says Ivan Cooper, chief executive of The Wheel, the national association of community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises.

Our willingness to “give back” is, he says, both a selfless act and a way of finding more purpose in our lives.

To find out about volunteer options open to you, check out WeAct.ie, a campaign to celebrate the impact of Ireland’s charities and community groups. It’s full of positive stories acknowledging the remarkable, everyday efforts of thousands of people around the country.

With your appetite so whetted, log on to Volunteer.ie, which has advice about selecting the right volunteer work for you, and points you in the direction of your local volunteer centre.

These help people to find suitable roles, provide support, deliver training and process Garda vetting.

There is something for every kind of volunteer, from helping at events to volunteering online.

Among the options is Barnardo’s Wizards of Words. It’s an evidence-based reading programme for children in first and second class in primary school who are 12 months behind their age group in their reading. It aims to improve the children’s reading ability, as well as their enjoyment and love of reading.

Wizard of Words volunteers are over 55 years of age, from the local community and deliver the paired reading programme in identified schools, during the school day.

The volunteers are trained by Barnardos and have full Garda clearance. They come from a variety of backgrounds, professionals and homemakers, and are chosen for their love of reading as well as their interest in working with children.

The volunteers meet with the children on a one-to-one basis, three times a week, for 30 minutes during school hours. They read specific stories with them while giving them individual reading instruction and support. Wizards of Words is always happy to hear from people interested in becoming volunteer tutors in the Dublin area.

International aid agency Trócaire has around 140 active volunteers around the country and it too is always happy to talk to people keen to join them.

There is a range of ways in which they can help the organisation, from helping out at events to speaking in schools. All who join the team are provided with training and support, according to Karen Casey, its Head of Community Engagement and Outreach.

This includes regular webinars and Zoom meetings to help you develop your knowledge of the challenges facing the communities Trócaire supports in the global south, including the impact of climate change.

Right now the charity is planning to ramp up its activities by attending events such as the Ploughing Championships, Bloom and the Electric Picnic. As such, it needs volunteers more than ever, she adds.

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times