Marco Patrocino began volunteering with COPE Galway when he found himself in the very challenging position of looking for a job in a new country during a pandemic.
He started volunteering in the backroom at COPE Galway’s charity shop, steaming and sorting out clothes and later moved to a sales assistant volunteer role at the tills.
Marco moved to Galway from Brazil at the end of 2019, after his wife moved here to study English. Marco says that finding a volunteer role was a way for him to keep busy in the meantime and become involved in the community.
When retail businesses like the COPE Galway Charity Shop reopened during the summer of 2020, Marco enjoyed the bustling atmosphere after months of isolation.
“People were in need of talking after that first lockdown so it was fun… At the beginning, customers were desperate to buy something and they’d spend a lot of time [in the shop] and buy everything! They were really happy because they could finally go out. We had some really good days selling,” Marco said.
He was also drawn to the opportunity to meet people in his new home and build his CV.
Shop Manager Allison Currah agrees. “Marco has been a great asset to our team of volunteers. He is very positive and capable, willing to lend a hand with anything and get stuck into hard work. Experience is something that many younger people need and volunteering can help with their confidence and their CVs. All of our volunteers and staff benefit from our work by feeling and being a part of something larger than ourselves and contributing to society.”
Marco’s duties at the shop included enforcing social distancing and other Covid-19 safety measures in the shop. Clothing donations even had to be ‘quarantined’ in a warehouse for a few days before being sorted.
“People are usually very kind and responsible everyone keeping distance and using masks,” Marco said.
While the shop was open last year, Marco also helped out with painting and signage at the shop. With retail businesses closed again, the COPE Galway Charity Shop now sells clothes online via Thriftify, which Marco helps with by photographing products, sorting the clothes, and shipping orders.
Marco’s introduction to COPE Galway — and indeed his introduction to life in Ireland — took place under very unusual circumstances, but he has nonetheless made the best of it and flourished in his role.