“It doesn’t take a bleeding heart to be a volunteer”

By Carlos Quinn
Chairperson, Suas

Readers who have been brave enough to venture into the library in the past few weeks have likely encountered a variety of colourful photographs in the Berkley-Lecky-Ussher Library Complex. For many students, these photographs resemble imagery from countless charity appeals, but for some students who walk by them, they contain recognisable faces and unforgettable memories. The photography exhibition is set to coincide with the “Suas Volunteer Programme” recruitment process.

Since 2002, over 300 students from Trinity College have volunteered as teaching assistants in Suas’s partner schools in disadvantaged communities in India and Kenya. I have been involved with Suas Trinity for the past three years and I spent two summers working in these overseas placements. My life has been tremendously enhanced since I first took part in the volunteer programme, the society activities and volunteering opportunities that followed.

Returning from Kenya this summer felt like I was waking up from a dream. I missed the classroom with 90 children, my teaching partner, my teammates and to my horror, even the food. No matter how long I spent boring friends to tears with stories, I could never quite get across the experience. I would say this is a sentiment that is widely felt by past volunteers. In a way, the volunteer programme launch for 2011 felt like a handover – I couldn’t help but eye the room suspiciously thinking that one of the people might be teaching my class next year. The society followed up the launch with a fundraising gig, the first of a series – blending together the Dublin mentors, the fundraising team, past-volunteers and thumping music for a great night.

I’m not entirely sure I remember what my motivation was for getting involved with Suas three years ago, I believe I just decided to “take the plunge” and experience something new. It certainly doesn’t take a bleeding heart to be a willing or successful volunteer, just a curiosity about the world around you.

Personally, I have never viewed volunteering as a selfless chore. It’s mutually beneficial – the chance to learn and form valuable bonds works both ways. Whether the volunteering is for an hour a week near College, or overseas, the opportunity is there for those who seek it.