The following is a testimonial from Gemma, one of our volunteers who works with the CASA kids group in Swords.
When did you start volunteering with CASA?
How did you hear about CASA?
I heard it through a friend of mine who recommended it.
Why did you want to volunteer?
I wanted to start volunteering at the time because I wanted to do something valuable with the spare time I had outside of work. I felt it was good to give back and help out as much you can, especially if you have a lot of free time. After meeting Rebecca, development officer of CASA, I learnt that it was once a month activities with people with disabilities. I was informed that you get a lot from it as a volunteer, more than you might expect. So that was one of the draws to it.
What do you enjoy about volunteering?
I think one of the big things about volunteering with CASA is you don’t realise how much you get back from the experience as an individual and realise that it is a two-way experience for volunteer and CASA member.. You get such a thrill and enjoyment from the Sundays through smiles you get, encouragement and just seeing the pure enjoyment of the members enjoying the dancing, singing and participating with each other. I think that is what the unspoken thing about volunteering is; it’s not what you’re giving to others it’s more what they are giving to you.
My favourite activity with the kids is when there is any kind of music! Their personalities light up and they become more excited and more active. They just love the dancing and having fun.
Most memorable moment(s)?
Having the newer kids arrive and integrating well and seeing them really enjoying the day with CASA because that what it’s all about. It’s also great to see our fellow volunteers lose their inhibitions completely and dance like they wouldn’t dance like on regular day and enjoy themselves as much as the kids do. I think both groups of people get a huge amount of the day and these Sunday’s are so valuable and so important for the CASA members and that’s what matters.
Describe a typical Sunday.
It starts at 2:00pm but for a volunteer it starts a bit earlier, about 1:30pm. We would go before to prepare the room. A room would be set up for the kids with different activities. We would need to set up the drinks, the arts & crafts, the bouncing castle prepared, ensuring the times for the food were right for the DJ or magician coming in. All the volunteers come and we start blowing up the balloons. Every volunteer would have a little job to do. Then we would be told who we are paired up with for the day, as it is one-to-one volunteering, as you would be with one kid for the afternoon. You are switched with members every Sunday which allows you to get to know all the kids that are in the group. It gives you a chance to to experience different kid’s personalities and moods.
All the kids will arrive at around 2pm. It will start with some of the smaller activities like arts & craft or games. But what it’s really about is doing what they want to do. We set up the room for all the games and activities for what they may want to do. Then when they come in they can choose what to do. The most popular of all is the bouncing castle! For the kids it’s really about getting to meet their friends, meeting the volunteers they meet the previous month and getting to play the games that they want and playing it in a group with a lot of fun involved. It’s like a big party with great excitement and fun. We’ll have a bit of music later on.
The day is staggered between the smaller games, the bouncing castle and then later on we might have a core activity. This could be a DJ, magician, organised games, musical chairs, indoor tag rugby, and musicians. It changes from time to time. They will generally have food then and finish off the afternoon by doing whatever activity they want to do, this can include colouring, lego and board games. The kids will be then picked up by their parents and the volunteers stay a bit after and help clean up the room. We then go home exhausted but happy!
Did the once a month schedule suit you?
Initially I never volunteered before and when I heard that it was once a month I thought that would be a good way to transition to see if volunteering suited me and to see if I’d like it. It got to the stage that I loved it so much I become involved in the committee and I went to the meetings to plan and prepare the Sunday’s. Later on I became the treasurer for one of the groups and became a lot more involved but it is a nice stepping stone to allow yourself that openness. As I became a more experienced volunteer, I found meeting the newer volunteers on the Sunday for the first time it was great to welcome them. To be able to tell them how you experienced your first day and help go through the routine for a typical Sunday. It is nice to give that reassurance to help them relax and enjoy their day.