Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Volunteering an ‘enriching and rewarding experience for all’

A tireless local volunteer who has spent over 40 years offering her time and support to her local community of Crossmaglen is urging more young people to get involved in volunteering to experience for themselves the rewards of such a commitment.

Edna Hand, who has spent the last 4 decades volunteering at Crossmaglen Rainbow Club, encourages all young people in the area to come along to the Thursday night activities and give up their time for this wonderful club which has provided invaluable support to the elderly and disabled over the years.

Speaking to The Examiner as Volunteers’ week kicks off today (Monday) until 7th June,  Edna explained how volunteers are the “lifeblood” of The Rainbow Club and said there was a need to recruit more young people onto the committee to carry on the good work of the club for generations to come.

“We have wonderful people with very long service volunteering at the Rainbow Club, and we need some fresh blood to keep the legacy of the last 50 years going and to continue to provide our invaluable services to the local community,” said Edna.

The club was set up almost 50 years ago with the purpose of providing social and recreational activities for people with disabilities and older people.

“We have an open door policy so anyone who feels they would benefit from coming to The Rainbow Club is always made welcome,” said the long serving volunteer.

“The club has a small committee and 10 regular volunteers, some of whom have been with us for a very long time – around forty years.

“Volunteering is an experience which offers an awful lot to everyone involved.  It offers the volunteer the opportunity to meet with people in their own community and to help people a bit less fortunate than themselves.

“Our club meets every Thursday night in Crossmaglen Community Centre for a craft session for young people and a bingo session for older people. We top off the evening by all coming together for music, dancing and supper, so there’s something for everybody there.

“The craft session is wonderful as it gives people an opportunity to sample crafts, drama and all sorts of stimulating activities.  We have people from 18 to 60 in the group and over the years, we’ve put on pantomimes and nativity plays which are hugely enjoyable.”

Edna explained that The Rainbow Club’s stalwart volunteers are mainly older ladies who are assisted by a number of young volunteers from local secondary schools via the Volunteer Bureau who join the group throughout the year for some volunteering experience.

“It’s a very important and valuable experience for any young person, giving them the opportunity  to work with adults, meet us as equals and work with people with various disabilities.

“They’re wonderful for us as they bring youth to the club and create normalisation because it means our young people with disabilities get to meet with their own peer group.  We really appreciate the Volunteer Bureau, particularly Gerry Carey who has provided great people for us.”

Edna feels that volunteering offers a world of benefits and experience for those involved including the opportunity to try something new, gain experience, develop skills, build confidence and meet new people.

“It’s an extremely enriching experience to give to others and in doing so many people find they gain as well from the support they receive in return from the group.  Many people who attend the  club have developed friendships and supportive relationships with volunteers which have lasted a lifetime.

“Having spent much of my life volunteering I know just how fulfilling and rewarding it can be. As well as the benefits for the people being supported, volunteers enhance their own wellbeing by helping others and becoming part of a volunteer family.

“Everybody in the Rainbow Club plays a different role and every role is just as important  as the other.  Each role is equal and everybody is appreciated.  Without volunteers this club would not survive and we are appealing for more members to join and support our group.”

With a small committee comprised of older people, Edna is encouraging some “young blood” to come and join them to enable the Rainbow Club to continue to provide vital support for the elderly and disabled for many years to come.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Rainbow Club is invited to come along to any of the Thursday evening sessions at Crossmaglen Community Centre or to contact any of the club’s committee members for more details.