GETTING involved in volunteering can help people boost their employability, meet new friends and give back to the community!
These are just some of the real benefits of volunteering with some of the many diverse organisations in the Omagh area according to Martin Cassidy, Volunteer Coordinator at Omagh Volunteer Centre.
And while Volunteers' Week (June 1 to 7) has once again drawn to a close, people can get involved in volunteering at any time of year, and experience first hand the true benefits of helping the community!
Volunteers' Week is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering - and for Mr Cassidy, it was a chance to reflect on the fantastic work that selfless volunteers carry out, often in the background.
Omagh Volunteer Centre has been helping all sorts of people find suitable volunteering opportunities for almost 20 years, and with hundreds of different ways to volunteer in the local area, people can get involved no matter experience, ability or age.
"Volunteer's Week is a good chance to showcase the work of volunteers do throughout the year," Mr Cassidy said. "While these volunteers don't do what they do for thanks and praise, it is a great opportunity to showcase our appreciation for them.
"Without volunteers, the many charitable organisations in Omagh and beyond simply couldn't function. To have these people so generously giving up their time is immensely important, and they make a profound difference in their communities. Their work is invaluable!"
Keen to recognise the work of local volunteers, Omagh Volunteer Centre recently launched the 'EPIC Awards', which awards certificates depending on time spent volunteers. 50 hours of volunteering will earn a Bronze certificate, 100 hours will earn Silver, and 200 hours will earn Gold.
And just last week, the first two Gold recipients received their awards award John Murray who Volunteers for Easilink Community Transport and Méabh Ward who volunteers for Omagh Riding for the disabled association.
Of the awards, Mr Cassidy said, “The EPIC awards are for all ages and our very first two recipients of the 200-hour Gold award highlights that.
"Volunteers’ Week gives charities’ and voluntary organisations the perfect opportunity to thank every one of the fantastic volunteers they work with.
"It is a chance to recognise that however volunteers give their time or skills, their contribution makes a huge difference to their community.”
According to Mr Cassidy, people will experience numerous benefits from volunteering, including increased social and interpersonal skills and a profound sense of satisfaction.
He said: "For volunteers themselves,depending on where they are coming from it, it helps them gain confidence through their volunteering, and also provides a platform and stepping stone for their future careers.
"They can gain valuable experience if they want to work in, say, childcare or with the elderly. Many who have went on to have careers in different sectors will first have volunteered, where they gain that confidence and experience for their CV.
"The work of volunteers benefits both the community and also enhances a volunteers own well-being. Making a difference in people's lives gives the volunteer a boost to their own, mental and physical health.
"Furthermore, volunteering also gives the opportunity to meet like-minded people people with similar interests. Volunteers very often become part of a community, where they make friends and really become part of it. It's often the case that community volunteers usually end up staying for longer than they anticipate - I know one local charity volunteer who said she only wanted to volunteer for a summer, and she has now been there for 46 years!"
Mr Cassidy said there are ample opportunities for local people to get involved in volunteering, whether it be working animals, in sports, or with the elderly.
He explained: "There is always is a need for more volunteers. Organisations will come to us throughout the year tell us what they need, and we produce a seasonal newsletter to promote opportunities.
"Our opportunities are all Omagh-based, and can be anything can be depending on what the person wants, including sport, animals, elderly people, etc. We have a range of 90 organisations, from big to small, that we try and support and most of them are volunteers themselves.
"People volunteer for different reasons, and we strive to match people with the best opportunities. It may be to gain experience in work and enhance their CV, or perhaps to give them something to do with their time that is constructive. We try and understand volunteers needs and place them in a role organisation that they will be happy within."
Omagh Volunteer Centre is open Monday to Friday. Visit the website, www.omaghvolunteercentre.org, to view current opportunities or register. The organisation is also on social media.