Every Wednesday, just before 6pm, a gathering occurs in one of Trinity’s most famed locations, Front Arch. This becoming locale is the meeting place of the aptly named Trinity Club which holds its weekly dalliances every week of term from 6pm to 8pm. This club however is not merely a random congregation of students, it is an assembly of volunteers that participate in one of VDP’s longest running and, as they firmly suspect, most rewarding weekly activities.
Trinity Club was established 26 years ago as a necessary outlet for both students and local people with intellectual disabilities. Currently 20 members participate in the wide spectrum of pursuits organised weekly. These varying ventures are also completed by 14 student volunteers, many of whom have been long term members of the activity during their years in Trinity. Led by the duo, Trish O’ Beirne and Donal Lowry, each week provides a unique opportunity for the volunteers to become engaged with the club members in different settings. From participating in karaoke, arts and crafts, screening movies and even visiting the Lord Mayor, every Wednesday is considered to be the most anticipated day of the week, with one leader admitting that the only challenge faced by the club is “compressing an abundance of fun into two short hours.”
This seems to be reflected in the jam packed schedule of the club for the remainder of Hilary Term as the club will be partaking in the annual and eagerly anticipated Vincent de Paul pantomime. The club will perform an entire scene, as well as a dance in this year’s production, “Harry Potter and the Book of Spells” which will premiere in a month. Along with this performance, the club will prepare their own wardrobe for their time on stage as well as visit the Mansion House and explore Dublin fire station. Furthermore, the widely agreed upon highlight of the year by both volunteers and members alike is the annual jaunt away to an adventure centre in Rostrevor which will also occur this semester.
What can a new volunteer expect from this revered activity upon joining? The mandatory Adult Protection training and wait for confirmation of Garda vetting appear to be the hardest elements of membership and this administrative side of the club must take place before volunteering each Wednesday even begins. Many praise the relaxed environment, the tradition of “impromptu speeches” by members as well as spontaneous dance parties initiated by longstanding Trinity Club member and DJ. The philosophy of the club can be described to the uninitiated simply as the provision of a casual chilled out atmosphere that allows for chats with members and dispersal of Capri Suns for all involved.
“Often a bit of social interaction is the best thing to be gained. The club promotes friendship, friendship and more friendship and this is extremely healthy”
However, it is not just the tasty beverages that has Trinity students returning to the activity week after week. The volunteers remain wholly aware and acknowledge the impact participation in the activity has upon the lives of the members of the club. This consequence of membership is extremely gratifying for those that partake week after week. Donal Lowry explains the relevance of Trinity Club today and the values it instils in members and volunteers during their foray into the club: “Often a bit of social interaction is the best thing to be gained. The club promotes friendship, friendship and more friendship and this is extremely healthy.”
When asked to provide a highlight of membership in Trinity Club thus far, Lowry immediately reflects on last year’s trip to the famed Rostrevor and the evening that the group spent in the local pub sharing soft drinks and conversation; “That particular evening there was a live band playing traditional folk songs. We dominated the dance floor for the whole evening and the band was loving it. After incessant requests for Abba to be played, the band finally caved in and played Dancing Queen. One of our members who especially loves Abba managed to become, for a short time, the lead singer of the band and belted out dancing queen to an adoring audience. It was a bizarre and magical moment.”
With such fond recollections of years gone by and a jam packed schedule for the upcoming semester, the longstanding club appears to be only growing from strength to strength, a simple truth that is echoed in the enthusiasm of both volunteers and members.