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A bridge into the community

Ena Jean O’Neill finds volunteering a rewarding experience in more ways than one

Ena Jean O'Neill

Having moved to Fishguard from London nearly three years ago, my first impression was, strangely, not that it was beautiful and peaceful; as an Irish woman I know the country and coast is stunning. What struck me was that it was brimming with potential that seemed to be going unnoticed.

How could I be a part of that?

A year into being a stay-at-home mum, when the lockdown began, I decided I needed to get my brain into action again, especially as I hoped to get a part-time job. It was around then I happened upon a Facebook post from Visit­ Fishguard and the North Pembrokeshire Chamber of Trade asking for volunteers to help with social media. I thought to myself ‘Why not?’ I use social media regularly and figured if I wanted to see change, this could be a good way of helping make it happen. I had skills, experience and ideas that would be of use and, in turn, I could learn and build on my experiences. I never had time while working in London and now I had an abundance of it.

I offered my time to post images and informative pieces on Facebook and Instagram, to help build the brand and increase followers. This fits perfectly into my routine as I can work from home and do it at my own pace.

I am glad I replied to that advert, as volunteering has given me the opportunity to become a part of a group who share a passion for our local community. This enabled me to get through the potential stresses and loneliness of the pandemic with a positive outlook. Not only have I met some fascinating people, but I have also gained knowledge and information about the area, helped develop projects, raise money, and build relationships with local businesses and people, all of which I am proud to be a part.

Before lockdown I had also volunteered to help in one of our local charity shops and I do still plan on doing so when the time comes, although, through volunteering, I was offered a part-time paid job! My time may now be limited, but volunteering is a great way to meet people, to develop your skills and to help in a way that, for most, a job in the big city never will.