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Jackie McCraw, Cahercalla, Gabriella Hanrahan CLO, UL, Caroline Copley, Cahercalla,  Ciara Sheehan, Michelle Cotter and Michael O’Dea UL

Students ‘untapped resource’ for charities

UNIVERSITY students led by an Ennis woman have put their best foot forward to raise much needed funds for various organisations including a local community hospital and nursing home.
Community Liaison Officer at the University of Limerick, and Ennis native, Gabriella Hanrahan spearheaded the fundraising efforts which encouraged students to get some exercise while also doing some good for worthy causes.
She believes that higher education students are an “untapped resource” and is encouraging communities to get in touch to explore ways student volunteers can support local initiatives.
Speaking to The Clare Champion about the fundraiser, Gabriella said, “Covid has created enormous challenges for organisations that traditionally fundraise to provide additional supports and services to communities. Covid also had the effect of reducing volunteering opportunities.”
She explained that the students committed to doing 40km of exercise with some walking, cycling or running, and they donated the money raised to animal shelters and activities for residents in nursing homes.
They raised over €3,500 and agreed to split the money four ways, with two donations to animal shelters, and two for activities for residents in nursing homes.
It was agreed that Cahercalla Community Hospital and Nursing Home would be one of the four recipients.
Last week UL students from Clare studying at UL, Michael O’Dea, Michelle Cotter, and Ciara Sheehan and Gabriella presented the cheque to Cahercalla.
Most of those presenting the cheque had links with Cahercalla through their families. Cahercalla’s Jackie McCaw and Caroline Copley accepted the donation on behalf of the hospital which will use the funds to provide residents with a range of activities.
Gabriella said, “Volunteering is in the DNA of UL students and is supported, recognised and rewarded through the President’s Volunteer Award (PVA) at UL.
“This programme was established back in 2010 through UL’s Community Liaison Office with the backing of the President of UL.”
Gabriella herself introduced the programme at UL and has since managed and led the development of student volunteering both locally and nationally.
She hosted the first higher education student volunteer working group at UL in 2013 and in 2016 launched the first and only national higher education online student volunteer management system www.studentvolunteer.ie.
“This innovative approach to higher education student volunteering enables community organisations anywhere in Ireland and beyond to post volunteer opportunities online. Higher education students can apply online for these opportunities as well as record their volunteer hours and experiences,” she outlined.
Gabriella added, “The willingness of higher education students to volunteering is one of the best kept secrets, it’s a good news story that rarely gets told.”
Although she has seen student volunteering go from strength to strength since 2010 both locally and nationally Gabriella also believes higher education students are “an untapped resource in their local communities”.
She would encourage local communities to get in contact to explore possible volunteering initiatives/opportunities and to engage students in their local initiatives who are attending UL.
Higher student volunteers were recently acknowledged in the first every National Volunteer Strategy launched by the Department of Rural and Community Development in 2021.
Gabriella understands this is a major step forward in recognising their volunteering potential and she is working on the implementation of this strategy with a particular focus on aligning online management systems nationally. To find out more email pva@ul.ie or log on to www.studentvolunteer.ie/ul.

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