Frances McArdle is a volunteer with RehabCare in Dundalk. Here she talks about her experiences...
“I began volunteering with RehabCare last year having completed a two-month placement with the centre as part of my Degree in Social Care with Dundalk Institute of Technology. I enjoyed the work so much that, when the placement ended, I continued to visit the RehabCare centre.
At the moment I attend the centre every week on my day-off from college. During this time, I spend a couple of hours on a one-to-one basis with a female service user at the centre.
It's our time to head out into town, to go shopping and have a coffee or hot chocolate. It's an opportunity for the service user a to get out of the centre, to buy her bits and pieces, and to have a bit of a chat.
I love spending time with all those who attend the RehabCare centre. They're a great bunch. We get on so well and there's always so much activity at the centre, whether it's a beauty class or a game of pool. It never feels like work!
I originally trained as a hairdresser but, after taking time out to raise a family, I wanted to give something back so I enrolled for a Degree in Social Care. To be honest, I hadn't really considered going into the disability sector. I was more focused on working with teenagers in a residential setting. That all changed following my work placement with RehabCare. Supporting people with a disability is now something that I'd definitely like to do once I've finished my education.
Volunteering with RehabCare has taught me so much, both in a professional and personal capacity. But you don't have to be interested in pursuing a career in this area to get involved. If you have skills to share, that's great. But if not, there's still so much you can do. Even sitting down and spending time chatting with service users can make a difference.
So, go on, give it a go. You won't regret it! ”
Sarah Finnegan is a volunteer with RehabCare's resource centre at Coes Road, Dundalk. Here she tells her story...
“I always wanted to become a volunteer, to give something back to the local community. I guess that I just never got round to it. However, when I saw an article on RehabCare's volunteering programme four years ago, I decided that the time was right.
I wouldn't have believed then that, four years on, I'd still be volunteering with RehabCare. But it has been such an incredible experience and so much fun.
Every Friday evening, no matter what the weather, I supervise the centre's weekly football session which takes place in the JJB soccer stadium in Dundalk. The 90-minute sessions are usually very well-attended and can become competitive, but in a good-natured way. The players are always kind to each other, and there's usually lots of banter and laughter.
My role includes blowing the whistle for half-time, but I'm much more than a referee. I also make sure that the RehabCare soccer players warm-up properly and that the taxis arrive to collect them at the end of the session. I never leave the stadium until everyone has gone.
Although I am certified in first aid, you don't need any specific qualifications to become a volunteer with RehabCare - just time and lots of enthusiasm. The football sessions are part of my weekly routine now, and I wouldn't miss them for the world.
I get so much from volunteering with RehabCare. During the day I manage a large convenience store and, at times, it can be difficult dealing with the public. But spending time with the gang from RehabCare always cheers me up. Their energy, good-nature and enthusiasm are infectious!
Would I recommend people to volunteer with RehabCare? Absolutely, I think everyone should get involved. You won't regret it! ”