Lil’s Story – volunteering in Community Catering

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Lil’s Story – volunteering in Community Catering

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Every morning, the COPE Galway Community Catering kitchen is a hive of activity, preparing meals for older people across Galway city and parts of the county.

Community Catering volunteer, Lil, is one of the Tuesday morning crew, a group she says has become like family.

“I enjoy all parts of the work, it’s all equally important. From peeling vegetables to cooking to cleaning, everyone’s of the same mind, with the same goals,” Lil said, adding that no job was too small.

On a typical Tuesday, she might arrive around 8.30am and spend the morning preparing food and separating ingredients. Before lunch, she’ll give the kitchen a deep clean. “And it’s thanks to the coordinators of the team who bring the spirit into the whole atmosphere.” That ‘atmosphere’, Lil said, extends kindness and respect to all individuals. These values permeate everything from the work done in the kitchens, to the group dynamic amongst volunteers, to interactions with COPE Galway staff.

Lil is a former member of a religious order and worked in missions in Brazil and South Africa before moving home to Ireland to care for her mother who was unwell. Around that time, she started a psychotherapy course in Galway, which bolstered a lifelong interest in social and service work.

Following her mother’s death, Lil chose to leave religious life and wanted to continue care work. She found a job she loved at a hospital in Galway, where she worked until she reached retiring age.

Many retired volunteers value the routine and camaraderie they find in their roles at COPE Galway. For Lil, the impact was yet more profound. She credits volunteering for helping to ‘lift’ her out of a bout of depression after she retired.

Depression, she said, has been a lifelong struggle but in a time of need, Lil said she was able to turn to COPE Galway staff for emotional support, which proved invaluable. “There’s such interest in each person. [A staff member] just has such empathy. She was there for me in that moment in such a way that made me feel ‘oh my goodness she’s right here with me’. It was wonderful.”

Lil says that for her, a simple yet active lifestyle is essential to her mental health.

I like being involved and active, and I think that’s true of most people who are retired. Volunteering satisfies that need,” Lil said. “I love getting up on a Tuesday morning to come here. Whenever I get an opportunity to tell people about the work COPE Galway does, I do.

She likes knowing that the meals she prepares provide for people who might not be able to cook for themselves. Lil said that the meal service accommodates a variety of dietary needs and restrictions, such as coeliac disease. She also thinks the lunch clubs provide invaluable social connections for older people who may live alone. “It’s a wonderful system that really flows,” Lil said of the food preparation and delivery process that takes delicious meals to people who need them most.

What advice would Lil give to someone who might find themselves in a similar situation to her own? “Go to the Volunteer Galway centre and they’ll put you in contact with the volunteering work you feel is right for you.”

When she first started volunteering with COPE Galway, she said she and fellow volunteers had a tour of the organisation’s various services in and around Galway. The scope and variety of COPE Galway’s services is something she wishes more people knew about, from Community Catering, to meal delivery services, to the new domestic abuse refuge, Modh Eile House.

“COPE Galway rang a bell with me, I felt like I would just love it,” Lil said. “The atmosphere here is so beautiful and everyone is respected.”

Lil is a wonderful example of how active volunteering supports healthy ageing. If you would like to volunteer with COPE Galway, please contact us on 091 778 750.

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