Kasia began her journey with COPE Galway back in 2019. Since then, she has progressed from volunteer to staff member and discovered a supportive network of co-workers and volunteers through the COPE Galway community.
Drawn to the social work area for most of her adult life, Kasia has always had a desire to support and uplift others. Upon moving from Poland to Galway in 2011, she continued to pursue her passion for people, working with the Citizen’s Information Centre, Galway Volunteer Centre, and Cosáin Community Wellness among others. During her time living in Galway, Kasia availed of COPE Galway domestic abuse outreach services. Despite her professional experience working with clients in difficult situations and despite her experience of completing hundreds of forms on behalf of her clients, she needed support.
“Even if you know what should be done, even if you know how to do it, even if you know the theory and have experience, everything becomes completely different when you’re emotionally involved. It can be easier to help others than to help yourself, sometimes.”
The staff members’ attitude towards the service users is impressive. They are supportive and encouraging and give their clients complete autonomy over decisions that affect their lives. As she was emerging from an emotionally turbulent period of her life, Kasia did not yet feel ready to return to a client-facing role. She needed to re-evaluate her career goals. “I needed a rest from problems,” she explains. “My own and others’.” By becoming a COPE Galway Charity Shop volunteer, Kasia felt that she was still able to give back to the local community, without having to take on an emotionally taxing role. “It’s still the same organisation. You can still feel you are doing something meaningful without being involved [with clients] directly.”
Before volunteering at the COPE Galway Charity Shop, Kasia had never worked in the retail sector. As a result, when the position of charity shop assistant manager became available, Kasia did not believe that she was qualified. However, with the encouragement of her fellow volunteers, Kasia was emboldened to apply. “It was so nice to have their support.
In her new position, Kasia still enjoys the same sense of camaraderie with her co-workers and shop manager that she did as a volunteer. While her new role brought new challenges and new responsibilities, it is still the joy of connecting with customers and co-workers alike that motivates Kasia. “As assistant manager, I do have more duties, but everything else is the same – the same nice atmosphere and conversations.”
Recently, Kasia – along with several other women from across the organisation – braved the wind and rain to take part in the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon and raise vital funds for COPE Galway. The 10km journey was by no means an easy feat, but Kasia crossed the finish line; and the experience was an incredible accomplishment for all involved. “We were soaking wet by the end of it, I couldn’t even use my phone to make a call!” she remembers, “but we really felt like a team. We learnt a lot about ourselves on the day, too.”
Kasia’s time with COPE Galway has so far been defined by emotional, interpersonal and career growth – yet it is just the beginning of her journey. Each day being a member of the COPE Galway Community presents a new opportunity – for learning, for friendship and for compassion.