Saturday 25 October 2014

why we wanted to give up our time for the st vincent de paul

Seán Flynn first started volunteering with the Society of St Vincent de Paul when he was a student at Belvedere College. The private school's location in Dublin's north inner city – traditionally one of the country's most deprived districts – gave him a sense of the disparity between the well-off and the desperately poor.

Now, at 24, the physiotherapist is the president of SVP's 18-33 Conference – whose volunteers are all aged within those parameters (it also spells out the year the charity was founded).

"We work mainly around Talbot, James Joyce and Sean McDermott streets, doing house visits and helping people clean up their flats," he says. "We're not afraid to get our hands dirty. It's not just about handing out clothes and vouchers to people."

Laura Cleary, also 24, works in the pharmaceutical industry and got involved in SVP in the last year of her studies at UCD. "In 18-33, we help the very neediest in society, and it is very heartening to know that the work we do is appreciated. We helped make liveable a flat that was owned by a woman with four or five children. She was so grateful and said she'd be able to have people around for a cup of tea for the first time.

"I have become aware that the Society is helping people who thought they would never need it. I know of people my parents' age who are really feeling the pinch."

The volunteers, themselves, are no strangers to hard times. Ailbhe Sheehan (25) volunteers at an SVP-run youth centre near Connolly Station, Dublin, despite studying to be a primary teacher and holding down two part-time jobs. "It's tough to make the time, but it's rewarding and services like this are badly needed," she says. "People my age are certainly feeling the recession. Many of them – including SVP volunteers – have had to emigrate in order to find work."

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