November 20, 2018
Charity / Organisation associated with Hero
Galway International Arts Festival, Galway Housing Action Group, Serve the City Galway, Social Democrats Galway West, Cuirt Festival of Literature, Galway Theatre Festival, Pieta House, Cosain Mental Health Wellness Group, Clifden Arts Festival, COPE Galway, Bruno Groening Circle of Friends, St. Vincent de Paul, Galway One World Centre, Galway Adult Basic Education Service, Sail Training Ireland
Period Hero has been volunteering for
30 years volunteering
Dedication of Volunteer
As a volunteer, Louise is the very definition of dedication. She has been volunteering since her first opportunity at age seven and puts her whole heart into the (many!) organisations with which she volunteers. She has been with Galway International Arts Festival since 2014, volunteering for various events within the Festival such as theatre shows, comedy gigs, street spectacles and large concerts at the Festival Big Top. She found her home at the Big Top, where myself and the venue's Chief Steward both took notice of her tenacity; she was one of the few who showed up for each gig - always on time, prepared and willing to do whatever was needed (including managing the ladies' toilet area, a role she carried out with as much enthusiasm as she did working backstage with artists). She is a natural leader in this environment, being trusted with management tasks in which the safety of each concerts' 50 volunteers and around 3,000 patrons was of primary concern. In 2018, two Venue Managers specifically requested Louise as their right-hand volunteer. As a result, she was one of only three volunteers to steward at the Festival's comedy gigs during the day and one of four promoted to Big Top Team Leader in the evenings, the responsibilities of which include managing the venue's volunteers, including their catering, uniforms, attendance and any outstanding issues.
Louise is also an integral part of our feedback mechanism at the Festival, as she is forthright and honest about each aspect with which she is involved, helping us to improve our programme each year. Each member of staff at GIAF is well aware of Louise and her contribution, including our CEO. We know we can rely on her for any volunteer tasks that require dedication, skill and compassion.
All of this would be impressive in and of itself, but not only does Louise have other commitments with her work at CosÃ¡in (a mental health and wellness organisation with whom she volunteers on her off-hours), she relies on public transportation to fulfil her volunteer duties in Galway City and is willing to cover expenses like these for her volunteering that organisations cannot. For Louise, nothing stands in the way of being able to help those in need and serving her city.
Impact made by volunteer
The organisations with which Louise volunteers almost all have a central theme: they are either directly or tangentially involved in promoting and supporting mental health for those who need it. Louise knows personally about these struggles and realises that her own mental health is bolstered when she helps others bolster their own. With her service of over 30 years, there is no way to calculate how many lives she has enhanced, but it is safe to say that her actions reverberate positively from individuals to their family and friends and to the community, certainly reaching thousands of people.
Because Louise has experienced struggles with mental health as well as with homelessness, when she relied on the generosity of others to survive and thrive, the genuine compassion with which she carries out her volunteering has a weight and empathy that cannot be equalled. Individuals know they can trust her. Her motivation never runs dry. And that trust and consistency is key to the impact she invariably has. Louise desires to work in mental health and recovery, and the skills she has gained and is gaining through her volunteering will continue to have lasting effects in this career.
In her various roles at Galway International Arts Festival, Louise has ensured that events run as smoothly as possible so that patrons have access to arts that could enhance their lives. She also understands that the social element of the Festival is integral to both her and their well-being. Her interaction with visitors allows them to have a smooth experience at the Festival, which, in the case of our many international and out-of-town visitors contributes to their experience of Galway and Ireland as a whole. In this way, Louise has also helped promote tourism in the city. She also enhances volunteers experience at the Big Top with her generous management style and skill to the extent that retention of these volunteers is likely improved.
Creativity / Initiative / Passion showed by volunteer
Louise doesn't just volunteer with so many organisations; she shows her initiative by continually and consistently going above and beyond for them. For instance, she volunteers at CosÃ¡in when her part-time work there is done. For Galway International Arts Festival, she keeps in constant communication with the Volunteer Department to see if she can help in ways not already required by her role description. When she studied abroad in Germany while attending college, while presumably many of her peers were engaged in less productive behaviour, she took an active role in the House Committee which involved arranging activities for residents of her building and helping them with various issues.
Louise even volunteers in her personal time at home, managing two social media accounts that bring awareness to homelessness in Galway and in the wider Irish community, using her own story to engage others.
She shows creativity in her role with GIAF by not simply carrying out the duties assigned to her but filtering them through her social conscience and considering them in the context of the greater good, feeding back to her supervisors if something could be done more efficiently or effectively. She asks for what she needs and what she knows others need. Since Volunteer Managers often do not take part in the same boots-on-the-ground operations as their volunteers do, this information is vital to thinking outside our typical boxes and improving our efforts.
Louise's passion is best expressed using her own words: 'Since my first hospitalisation in 2008, I have been interested in mental health and well-being, especially after my discharge when I attended the Elm Tree Centre in Clifden, Connemara, and County Galway. They and other mental health professionals have helped me through challenging times and I would like to be able to offer the same encouragement and compassion to others who are struggling with their mental health. I enjoy supporting others and am enjoying the time spent working in this recovery-focused environment. I am a strong believer in volunteerism and that volunteering can assist in mental health recovery. Through volunteering, I have become the person I am today.'