Andrea Gallagher speaks of her involvement in the Galway 'Friends of Foróige' group

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Foróige May 29, 2014

My first awareness of Foróige happened many years ago when I joined my local Foróige club. I associated the time spent in the club with fun, laughing with our club leaders and other members, playing games and working on little projects.

Years later, having experienced what it’s like to be a young person in Foróige, I wanted to give something back to other young people and so I became a volunteer in one of Sligo’s Foróige Projects, The Crib Youth Project and Health Café. This opened my eyes to the extent of the work Foróige does on a national level and helped me understand the level of opportunity the organisation provides to so many young people outside of my local area in Sligo. This assured me that being involved with young people and their development was something that I wanted to do and I went on to choose youth work as a career choice.

I have worked in quite a few different roles in Foróige over the last number of years. These have included roles in Drug and Alcohol Education Projects, a Neighbourhood Youth Project, acting as a Regional Youth Officer and as part of the Big Brother Big Sister team. When the ‘Friends of Foróige’ opportunity came about, I was very interested in it as it was a new aspect of Foróige involving a different role. At the time, I was relatively new to Galway, I saw it as a way to meet new people while also supporting a fantastic and well deserving organisation. Having been very involved in fundraising at home for different causes, it has always been something that I have enjoyed. I also saw at as a way of sharing my own knowledge and skills and learning from others. Another thing about of ‘Friends of Foróige’ that attracted me was that it’s not a significant time commitment.

I enjoy being involved in the group because of the social aspect; the meetings are relaxed but productive. The Galway ‘Friends of Foróige’ group is composed of adults from a range of backgrounds, all of whom have decided to become voluntary supporters of the organisation. Some of our members were young people on Foróige’s representative body of young people, the Reference Panel some years ago, Foróige volunteers, and others are Foróige staff. The combination of different views, approaches, experiences, skills and contacts combined means we have an excellent team. Personally, my involvement in this group has helped me establish connections in local communities which have helped with getting to know people locally. This has also helped me through my youth work in the locality.

The support from Breda, Foroige’s Alumni Officer, is brilliant. Her relaxed approach, great enthusiasm and ability to share information from events organised by other Friends of Foróige groups and societies helps us significantly in the planning of events in Galway. Last year, the Galway Friends of Foróige group ran a Rock ‘n’ Roll Bingo night. The group also organised a 5km Fun Run. I would like to see more people get involved in Galway ‘Friends of Foróige’ so we can plan more events, raise more funds but also raise more awareness of Foróige across the county.

I would definitely encourage others to get involved in their local ‘Friends of Foróige’. There is great flexibility with this volunteer role and it’s particularly suitable for anyone who may not feel that direct youth involvement is their thing. There is a great sense of satisfaction in doing something good for an organisation that benefits so many young people nationally.