Please tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Louise and I'm a yoga teacher based in Waterville, Co Kerry. I moved to the area from Wales about 6 years ago and live with my partner, Dave and my little rescue dog, Rosie. She's a spaniel mixture, who we brought home the day before Storm Ophelia in October 2017. Although not used to living indoors, she merrily took over the sofa, the whole house, and of course both our hearts within about a week.
How do you volunteer with KLAWS?
I started doing some ad hoc volunteering for KLAWS a few years ago, helping out with street collections because I was friends with other KLAWS volunteers. In January 2021, I offered to help with the administration of the charity and was asked to become a trustee. I was invited to become Vice Chair as my qualifications and experience were considered suitable for the role and I took on running a new operations committee and managing the communications team.
Why did you become a volunteer?
I've many years of experience working for charities in the UK, mostly in communications, but also volunteer management and training, and service delivery. Since moving to Ireland, I've mostly taught yoga and picked up temporary work in the summer, so I wanted to volunteer because I missed the work I used to do. It's a good feeling knowing you're using your skills to help improve the world a bit. Since adopting Rosie, we weren't able to look after dogs like we used to in Wales, so it feels good to be able to help the abandoned cats and dogs of Kerry.
What have you learned from volunteering? Has it changed you in any way?
Since volunteering for KLAWS I've had a crash course in how small charities run in rural areas and it's very different from the bigger, established charities I used to work for. It's much more about personal relationships and can demand a lot from a small number of very dedicated volunteers. I'm completely in awe of what our volunteers achieve with relatively little in terms of resources. I think it's so important to ensure new volunteers don't take on too much, that they feel supported and become part of a team.
Is there anything you didn't expect about volunteering?
Navigating a pandemic during my time as Vice Chair has been interesting, and probably encompasses my high points and low points of volunteering! It's had all sorts of effects on us, positive, neutral and negative. From having all our meetings online, to the shop being closed, to having more foster carers because so many people were working from home. Then afterwards all these additional dogs needed rehoming because people didn't have time to look after them once we were out of lockdowns. Also, many of us hadn't ever met each other in person! I think it'll take a while for us as a charity to settle back into some sort of normal.
What would you describe as a high point and a low point of your time volunteering?
The best part of volunteering is definitely the people you meet. We have all sorts of people volunteering for us and they usually have an interesting back story. Between us all we weave a unique tapestry and the appreciation you get when you stand on a stall or a street corner collecting is very heart-warming. People around here really appreciate what we're doing and are very generous whenever we ask them for support.
What would you say to someone thinking of volunteering?
If anyone reading this is thinking of volunteering for KLAWS, I would say get in touch today! Because we're a small charity we have all sorts of areas where we need help and you can do whatever most interests you. We understand that some people might prefer to volunteer in the shop on the same day every week, whereas someone else might have time to foster a dog one month but might not be able to the next month. I started by just doing street collections twice a year! It all really helps.