My name is Stephen O'Leary. I’ve been a volunteer Club Leader with Foróige for about 3 years. I started a Foróige Club in Derrinturn, Co. Kildare and we now have 25 members! We have also started a Foróige Juniors Club this year which already has 36 members. I was elected as the Kildare representative on the National Council of Foróige and I also sit on Foróige’s National Executive. Some of the Foróige volunteers, staff and young people may know me from my tattoos! These are a big talking point with the new people I met while volunteering at Foróige's Reference Panel meet up this year. The Reference Panel is Foróige's representative body of young people who help to guide the organisation.
This was my first time helping out at the Reference Panel and it was such a great experience. I'd definitely recommend that other volunteers try it too. The young people I've met through Foróige's Reference Panel have inspired me, moved me, made me laugh. The experience will stay with me forever. I love the chats, I love their opinions. These young people have done some things that I have not done in all of my 42 years. When I think of everything they have achieved as part of Foróige's Reference Panel and as ambassadors for their Foróige Clubs, communities and families, it truly amazes me. I am so happy to be volunteering with such gifted young people. Ireland is lucky to have these young people. If I ever hear the remark that children should be seen and not heard, I will have to laugh. These young people have more common sense and points of vierw than a lot of adults I know.
On the last day of our meet up, everyone had the opportunity to write a little message or quote for each person there. All I can say is Thank You for those comments. They truly made me happy. When running the Club is frustrating or I question why I volunteer, I can always refer to those messages. They will always stay with me.
Thank you to Foróige for providing this life experience to me. I really enjoyed the conversations and the people I have met.