When did you start volunteering with Dublin Simon Community?
I started my volunteering on the 10th September 2018. Back then it was the Rough Sleeper Team and since June it’s been Dublin Outreach so I could categorize that as two different placements. So much changed – mostly for the better. We went from the OG team of 6 to a growing team of 15 – which is a tight squeeze in Capel Street. Work has gotten busier because we are meeting more people and utilizing our time to be able to help them all to our best abilities. We have more means to help the clients as well. Our abilities and remit has grown and it’s great to be able to help them in this way.
What made you want to start volunteering?
I was really thankful to be able to do my volunteering as part of my university degree. I’m currently studying Psychology in Ulster University and this is my work placement year. It has also really changed my view on what I want to do after my degree!
What’s your favourite part of volunteering?
Truthfully, my favourite part is being able to fully immerse myself in the role. The outreach service has so many moving parts and is such a good, supportive team so they are very accommodating if you want to take on more responsibilities. Even things like going to the MDT in Merchants Quay, working closely with the councils and all the other homeless services and being able to build relationships and work closely with people in other DSC services. Even working along side the Sure Steps out-of-hours suicide prevention team who previously shared our offices and the flexi team. It was always great to be able to go and chat to someone else or have another person making tea in the evenings! The flexi team all have such extensive knowledge, they’re really dependable and develop great relationships with the clients – and, of course, they’re always great for a chat.
Describe a (any) positive memory that you have from volunteering with Dublin Simon Community?
So in outreach, you see a lot of the tough stuff. You see clients at their lowest and at a point where they don’t feel comfortable being themselves. Because of this and so many other external factors that can impact their lives, we make sure to celebrate all the little successes (and REALLY celebrate the big ones). So my positive memories really originate from the clients progressing. It can be something as simple as getting a new outfit at the shops, one client told me they felt ‘proud to be [their] mothers son’ when we helped him pick out clothes for his mum’s funeral. Again, when clients get in to detox after such a journey and they’re so proud of themselves and you’re thrilled to be able to help them get here. Ultimately, the biggest success or positive moment from Outreach was when we got one of our most vulnerable clients from entrenched rough sleeping to a CWI bed and then into detox and now into a rolling bed. Seeing them go from their lowest and most vulnerable to this place of strength and pride and comfort has been so rewarding.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of volunteering with Dublin Simon Community?
If anyone is considering volunteering with DSC I would say definitely go for it. There is something for everyone in DSC, and it is such a worthwhile experience. DSC is so flexible with roles and programmes so from full time, like me, or going part time to the soup run or social club or a plethora of other options, it’s definitely something I would recommend.
Do you have any plans or goals for 2019 while volunteering with Dublin Simon Community?
As I’m coming to the end of my placement, my goals have already passed and thankfully were successful. With the team expanding and the client group getting bigger it was always important for me to work to my best standard and make sure that I was dependable and accountable while being a smiley face for my colleagues and the clients – or the clients at least! Also, due to all the walking, I have gotten quite a bit fitter! There was no gentle start on the Rough Sleepers. I did most of my early shifts with Anna (now in Longfields) and she is a very fast walker. Thankfully I could keep up, but it would take a while to be able to breathe again afterwards. I remember very early in that Róisín had said that no one gets placed in the Rough Sleeper Team by accident and as time has went on I’ve become very comfortable in my role. I’m really thankful of the support from my team all throughout my volunteering experience. They’re a really great bunch of people which reflects in the way the clients talk about the team. It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re helping people and making a difference.
Do you have anything that you’re looking forward to for the rest of the year?
I’m really enjoying watching the new members of the team come into their own. It’s really nice to see them approaching the role with their own unique perspective and it’s always great to be able to answer their questions because it makes me feel as though I know my role well – and after this length of time I’d like to think I do. As I am finishing up soon, there is a sense of excitement and a sense of sadness. If I didn’t have to leave to finish college, I definitely wouldn’t be leaving.