- Volunteering: Why & How?

To celebrate National Volunteer Week, Colm O’Hehir, Campus Engage Officer with the Irish Universities Association, tells us about the importance of volunteering and how students can use to make a difference in their communities.

Colm O’Hehir, Campus Engage Officer, Irish Universities Association

Colm O’Hehir, Campus Engage Officer, Irish Universities Association is the one-stop-shop website online platform connects students with civil society organisations (CSOs) for volunteering opportunities across Ireland and abroad. Currently we have 11 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) represented by the system: Dublin City University, TU Dublin, Limerick IT, Maynooth University, NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, IT Tallaght, IT Tralee, University College Cork, University College Dublin and University of Limerick. At present we have over 12,000 registered students and over 900 organisations using to matchmake volunteers with opportunities. However, the potential for the system is even greater, with more than 1,063,000 registered third level students across Ireland, and more than 8,000 registered civic society organisations (CSOs).

A recent report commissioned by the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and published by Indecon- ‘Delivering for Ireland: An Impact Assessment of Irish Universities’- revealed that  university students contributed 3 million hours to causes and events with an economic impact estimated at €28.4 million for the academic year 2017-18. is a ‘parent’ website that hosts individual subsites for each HEI, allowing them to have their own individualised, branded system to promote local opportunities and resources. Students register with their own HEI webpage to allow them to access volunteering opportunities at a local, national or international level. Organisations looking for volunteers also register on the website and then upload their volunteering opportunities. Students can access volunteering opportunities across the country, and can keep track of their successes to get Award and recognition of their work.

The benefit of the system to CSOs is that they can promote their volunteering opportunities across the 11 member HEIs, and recruit volunteers for local, national and international initiatives. Charities such as Barnardos, Trocaire, Special Olympics Ireland, Age Action and Teenline all recruit volunteers through the website.


Volunteering allows students to gain valuable experience and insights into real-world problem solving, by applying their skills and academic knowledge. This is not only beneficial for future job applications but also for the student’s own civic identity and personal development.

Quoted in The Independent, Billy Norman, a customer account manager in Unilever said "the selflessness of a volunteer can stand out like a beacon in a sea of self-interest."

Volunteers make a difference to their community by giving their time to people and causes that need it. Across healthcare, the environment, education, youth and social services, sports, culture and the arts – volunteers are crucial to the sustainability of many organisations.

The impact to society beyond the economic metric is impressive. When helping organisations like Age Action, volunteers can visit older people in their homes to assist in whatever way they can, offering non-judgemental, friendly advice, computer training and sometimes financial management assistance. We hope that and volunteering in Ireland will continue to grow into the future and that our volunteers know how much their work is appreciated.

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Liam Redmond