05 Jul 2022

'This is my first time volunteering and I love it' - invaluable Laois volunteers

'This is my first time volunteering and I love it' - invaluable Laois volunteers

Cllr Conor Bergin (Cathaoirleach, Laois Co Council) cuts the ribbon on the Laois Integration Network Zero Cost Shop, with Seamus Mulhall (Mulhalls SuperValu), Karen Mc Hugh (Chairperson LIT).

The Laois Volunteer Centre's Manager Caitriona Ryan spoke with some people who give of their time to help others as part of Laois Volunteers Week which runs to May 22.

She met with Orla who is aged 23 and who volunteers at the Jack and Jill Charity Shop in Portlaoise. The shop helps to raise funds for the charity that provides hospice care for children aged six and under.
Unemployed at the moment, Orla has been volunteering at the shop since March 2022. She volunteers in the shop and the online shop three days a week.

Sorting lego and clothes is a big part of her work in the shop. When working on the online aspect she takes photos of clothes that will go for sale on the internet. She also helps out with shipping.

As to why she volunteers, it's simple.

“I like the thought of giving back. I like helping people. I like to feel like I am doing something good for someone else,” she says.

Orla also says there is a social side to helping others.

“It also makes you feel good to get out talking with people and get to know them,” she says.

She had never put herself forward into the voluntary world before but she is reaping the dividends.

“This is my first time volunteering and I love it, I really, really do,” she said.

Herman is a French student who volunteers at the Jack and Jill shop. He has been working for the foundation since April. He works on the shop floor and the warehouse. He happens to be the only man who is volunteering at the shop.

He says he benefits becuase he is gaining experience of working in an English speaking country.
He encourages people to work in charity shop and says the Irish shops are much better than his home country. Ultimately, he says volunteering is good for everyone.

Karen McHugh is the voluntary Chairperson of the Laois Integration Network. Originally from Sligo, she has worked in London but has lived in Laois for 15 years.

A qualified social worker, she has volunteered throughout her career, working as a befriender for older Irish in the UK.
She says the Laois Integration Network was set up in 2016 during the Syrian refugee crisis.

She says the network works with all communities and promotes integration. The latest initiative has been the opening of the zero cost Síopa Fáilte for Ukrainian refugees which has required many people to volunteer.

She believes everybody can volunteer.

“There is a role for everybody,” she said.

Ms McHugh includes in this everything from repair work to answering phones in many different sectors.

While there is a social dimension, she feels she has a duty to help others.

“I feel it is important. It is a duty. I am healthy. I have various knowledge, skills and connections I can offer and I believe I get more out of it than I give.

“So, I believe it is something everybody should do,” she said.

National Volunteering Week runs from 16th – 22nd May.

For further information contact Laois Volunteer Centre on 087 24 99 659 or by emailing Check out the website at and their social media chanels

Volunteer Ireland is the national volunteer development organisation and a support body for all local Volunteer Centres in Ireland. Volunteer Ireland works to increase awareness of, access to and quality in volunteering in Ireland. For further information, visit:

The 29 Volunteer Centres are the local leaders in community engagement, supporting and promoting volunteering.

They provide a placement service between individuals and groups who want to undertake voluntary activity and organisations that are seeking to involve volunteers along with a range of other services.

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