Long-time supporter John Monaghan from Belfast shares his experiences of volunteering with Trócaire.
In many respects, a planned trek up Slieve Donard in Newcastle, County Down, to mark Trócaire’s 40-year anniversary this 28 July is fitting. It is a symbolic acknowledgment that some things in life – such as social justice and bettering the lives of people elsewhere – represent a marathon, never a sprint.
Over the past seven years, I have been privileged to take part in a number of important laps on that marathon; from a campaign trip to Nicaragua to support free education for all, to urging action on climate change, to promoting the IF campaign this year.
On that Trócaire trip back in 2006 to Nicaragua, I, along with other volunteers, saw at first hand the work that Trócaire’s partner organisations were doing to improve living conditions, legal rights and job opportunities for local people.
There were plenty of ways in which we were able to promote Trócaire’s work upon our return home following that campaign and during many other campaigns; through school and parish talks, helping with campaign stalls at events, and writing to and meeting with local political representatives to encourage them to raise issues.
Speaking at my local parish church and holding a stall there during various campaigns has helped to get across a very important message to the community and overcome a popular misconception; that Trócaire is not simply for Lent.
Volunteering with Trócaire has also enabled myself and other volunteers to lend our voice and support to broad, cross-charity campaigns. The next of these is in Belfast on June 15th, when the IF campaign event, calling on world leaders to act against global hunger, takes place just days before G8 leaders converge in County Fermanagh.
But, it was perhaps that first trip to Nicaragua however which brought home to me the reason why so many people support and volunteer with Trócaire – that it invests locally in every sense of the word.
Unlike some other charities, Trócaire’s approach means that, in every country where it funds projects, local organisations work with local people to build a brighter future. Local people are always empowered to carry forward the projects.
Yet, as I said at the beginning of this blog, the work is a marathon, never a sprint. So consider volunteering with Trócaire, by participating in the IF campaign or the Trócaire Slieve Donard hike, and celebrate arriving at another important pitstop along the way.