Before joining Claddagh Watch, I had never volunteered. Like many, I had toyed with the idea over the years, but sadly, mostly for self-indulgent reasons. The ‘Oh, it will look great on my CV’ kind of reasons. In my mind, those who volunteered regularly and truly enjoyed it were exceptional people, born with a superior gift of kindness, empathy and morality. I believed that you had to be a more generous, almost a more Godly person, to do the amazing things I’ve witnessed volunteer groups do. On reflection, it is a strange thought, but I felt that I wasn’t good enough a human to volunteer and that others would be better suited to the task. That was until I was introduced to Claddagh Watch and my perception of volunteering changed completely
Claddagh Watch Patrol, which was founded by Arthur Carr and some dedicated people in 2019, sees volunteers patrolling the waterways and bridges of Galway City in an effort to prevent deaths by accident and suicide and to promote water safety
This organisation struck a chord with me as living in Galway City, I was aware of the many tragic accidents and suicides at the hands of the River Corrib. This included incidents with people from around the County including East Galway, I also knew that no measures were being put in place to help people who found themselves contemplating suicide along the river, or those who were at higher risk of an accident due to the proximity of the bars and nightclubs to the river’s edge. Having completed courses on suicide awareness and intervention previously, I felt that I had to put this knowledge to use. After many meetings and numerous training sessions, I went out on that very first patrol and so ended my fear of volunteering. Without a doubt, it was one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve ever had. I believe this is because of the extraordinary reaction of the community around us. Patrolling the bridges and waterways, we were overwhelmed by the amount of people, young and old, who came to us with their questions, their praise and thanks and their personal stories of how the river has affected their lives.
There were people who questioned the need for our patrols but once we explained our goal of preventing accidents and suicides, they quickly congratulated us on our efforts. Others who were enjoying their night out and moving from pub to pub, even made time to bring us tea and coffee as a sign of gratitude. The support, we as volunteers receive each night, is truly something special and that support has only continued to grow with time. It has become my small way of contributing to the society I live in, and the appreciation of people in Galway rings loud and clear. One of the reasons I have found it easy to continue volunteering with Claddagh Watch is the support network you meet in the group itself. Joining a volunteering group is a fantastic way to meet new people and build your own support base. Everyone is focused and committed to the same cause and you have to work together to keep each other and those around you safe.
While walking along the waterways and keeping an eye out for those who are vulnerable, I have met many other volunteers from different backgrounds, who each have a unique story and motivation for joining Claddagh Watch. It is a great way to make new friends and I also think it has a positive effect on self-esteem. Putting yourself out there and trying something new can definitely help improve your confidence and I would highly recommend volunteering to anyone who feels shy or nervous. I definitely find it to be an energizing escape from the normalcy of day to day life. Volunteering has also given me the opportunity to experience a greater purpose in life. In our modern society, it can be difficult not to fall into the materialistic ideology that is portrayed on our social media platforms each day. We are constantly connected to content that promotes the idea that the more things you own and the more money you have, the better and happier your life will be.
I can wholeheartedly say that there is more to this life than social media and the things you own. Volunteering instils a sense of purpose, a feeling of fulfilment unlike anything I have experienced before. Making the effort to help others certainly gives you a positive mindset, so at the end of the day, you are not only helping someone else in need but you are also helping yourself. I also think it is so important to try and do one good thing for someone else as often as possible. Every day we are bombarded with distressing news stories from around the world, so for me volunteering presents a tangible and proactive way of doing something to make the world a better place. Even the smallest gestures can make a big difference to someone in need!
All these lovely reasons aside, the main reason I volunteer is because I want to make a difference to the sad and frightening situation our city finds itself in. When the news of yet another suicide or accidental death blackened my social media feed in the past, I always felt the same wave of emotions. Anger, upset, shock, turmoil and then the question of ‘why?’. Why that person? Why that river? Why was no one there to help? Some people looked to the government and council for explanation. Thanks to Claddagh Watch Patrol and the wonderful people who have dedicated their free time to this cause, I can say that we are here to try and help. Each week, strangers come together with the goal of making our city that little bit safer and each week, we make a difference.
People are now more aware than ever of the dangers the river poses and I hope that it will also create a greater awareness of mental health and the struggles people may be facing. You never know whose life you may potentially save by just asking ‘are you okay?’. Finally, if you have never volunteered before, then please, now is the time to give it a try. Helping others and making life a little easier for someone else, has the potential to greatly improve your own life too.
Check out - Volunteer Galway 091 581727 or Claddagh Watch Patrol 087 9933097
If you have any news items about Ballinasloe, please use this link to contact us