THE current economic climate has brought with it many challenges but the silver lining can be seen in the form of a significant return to community focus and volunteerism. The 41st annual Foróige Leaders conference held recently in Hotel Kilkenny, celebrated volunteerism at its best and gave volunteers, including fourteen eager volunteers from Offaly.
The theme of the conference, ‘Building a Better Ireland through Youth Development’, helped to highlight and prepare volunteers for the vital role they have in Ireland’s economic and social recovery.
Fr James MacKiernan, leader in Ballycumber Foróige Club and a member of the National Council of Foróige, said, “It was inspiring to see so many volunteer leaders coming together because of a shared passion for youth work. I truly believe we can build a better Ireland through youth development. Our young people will play a vital role in Ireland’s fight back and it is our job as volunteer leaders to ensure they are challenged, prepared and empowered to maximise their potential to be a major part of the solution. The highlight of the weekend for me was listening to Seán Gallagher.”
RTE Dragon and past member of Ballyhaise Foróige Club, Co Cavan, Seán Gallagher, delivered an inspiring keynote address on Saturday morning. Through his personal story, Seán highlighted the importance of turning whatever challenges we are faced with into opportunities.
As a past Foróige member, Seán attributes much of his success in later life to his time spent in his local Foróige club. Here he learned how to chair a meeting, have a voice, organise activities and events and most of all make a difference to the world around him. It was in these early years that Sean took on the mantra, passed down to him by a teacher, ‘if you can dream it, you can become it.’ It was to this mantra that he spoke during his address. His words echoed Foróige’s philosophy of empowering and enabling young people by believing in them and showing them that you believe. The Foróige leaders were re-energised in their volunteer work by Sean’s words of encouragement and ready to take on the challenges that the Ireland of 2011 brings. Sean said, “No one explained to me the impact that Foróige would have on my life. I am here to tell you the impact that you are all having and I salute you. Foróige has spurred me to do many things and it has, in many ways, shaped my life. As volunteers in Foróige, you are shaping lives, you are building young people’s futures and you are forging communities.”
The 200 attendees at the conference represent almost 5,000 volunteers working with young people through Foróige clubs, projects and services around the country.
The conference concluded with Foróige’s Annual General Meeting, where Mairi McMahon, Chairperson of the National Council of Foróige, gave her official address and a new national executive, to oversee the day to day running of the organisation, was elected.