Back home, on occasion, I like to volunteer at the local food banks, and soup kitchens. Originally, I wanted to do something similar while in Galway, specifically with a homeless shelter. I find the most satisfaction and worth when directly helping those in need, as opposed to simply doing outside work. Unfortunately, Galway city doesn’t have too many homeless shelters or soup kitchens, probably due to the fact that there aren’t too many homeless people in this part of Ireland, due to the constant rain. And the homeless organizations that do exist, require some volunteers to have background clearance as well as make a six-month volunteering commitment. As a result of this, I decided to branch out and work with the Galway Conservation volunteer organization, to help clean up Galway beach.
The Galway Conservation volunteer organization’s motto is, “People working for a better environment.” Their goal is to enhance and protect some of the most beautiful green places in Galway City, by carrying out a wide range of activities, such as: planting native trees, hedgerows and wildflowers, and removal of invasive plants. Each month they choose a different part of Galway to clean and restore, this month focused on the restoration and cleaning of the local beaches. Typically, Galway is extremely good at recycling and trash removal, which makes the city as a whole extremely clean. Unfortunately, all of the trash eventually is placed on a giant boat in the bay. The mountain of trash becomes so high that when it is finally time for them to dispose of it, a lot of it falls off in transit, inevitably washing up on shore.
Before this volunteering experience, I used to consider outside conservation as almost a futile effort. There was little reward or change that you could see, because as soon as you clean up one area, it almost immediately would get ruined again. Yet, while working on the beach today, I saw first-hand the affect that kind of thinking has on the environment. Today I saw two versions of the Galway beach. There is the populated side, in which everyone goes to play and relax, and then there is the neglected side. At first I was a little confused why they even needed volunteers to clean the beach, because there was such little trash. But then I realized, that’s because they were only concerned with cleaning the part of the beach that people actually stayed on. I decided to wander off a bit on my own in search of trash, only to find myself on the other half of the beach, hidden from people, that was completely covered in trash that has fallen off of the boats. I was extremely confused and angry as to why no one else bothered to clean this side of the beach. Then I realized, it’s because they all had the same mindset I originally had, that it would be pointless, especially since it doesn’t get any traffic. I found myself becoming super protective and feeling responsible for what that beach has become. I realized that just because something seems hard and is going to need a lot of attention, doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve the attention and work. We have the fate of the world in our hands, and with effort, we can make it better. For-instance in Galway, if we focused more on cleaning the neglected side of the beach, then more people will be willing to go on that side and more people will be willing to take care of it. More traffic by people doesn’t necessarily mean more destruction, especially in the global community sense. If we all work together with the same common goal and values, then we can all make a difference and actually make change and progress in our community, and in our world. I am truly glad I ended up doing this volunteering experience, because it has reminded me how lethal ignorance and neglect is, and how powerful one person can actually be to make change.
Affirmation of the world — that is affirmation of the will to live, which appears in phenomenal forms all around me — is only possible for me in that I give myself out for other life”. -Albert Schweitzer:
I chose this quote with the picture above, because it reminds me that the world is filled with all types of life, and that not only human-life needs saving.