National Volunteer Conference

On Saturday 25th September, Le Chéile hosted our National Volunteer Conference.This year, the theme of the conference was ‘Inspiring hope, believing in change’.

After being delayed by a year, we were excited to organise an opportunity for our volunteers from across the country to come together, chat with one another, learn new skills, and hopefully be inspired in their role as mentors.

On the day, we had a number of guest speakers, including an opening address by Mark Wilson, the new Director of the Probation Service. He thanked all of Le Chéile’s volunteers for the invaluable work they do in communities across the country and in support of the work of the Probation Service. He ended his address with an appropriate quote from Helen Keller – “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

We then heard from an inspiring young man who was previously referred to Le Chéile for mentoring. He spoke about his first hand account of what it has meant for him to have a Mentor. He said “Sometimes when you’re in a bad way, you feel like you have nobody and you can find it hard to express yourself, but having a mentor there and someone that’s willing to listen and talk, it’s definitely a good thing.”

After hearing the young person’s story, we then moved on to a special keynote address from Dr Sharon Lambert on Understanding Psychological Trauma: Identifying it in those we work with and how this impacts on us. Dr Lambert is a lecturer in the School of Applied Psychology in UCC and her field of interests revolve primarily around the impact of trauma on development, its link with substance dependence and mental health, and consequent considerations for service design and delivery. The presentation provided important insight for all mentors when working with young people and parents who may have experienced trauma.

We then had a number of breakout sessions to facilitate group workshops. We had an exciting and experienced line-up of experts speaking on a number of interesting topics relevant to Mentors and the work they do with young people and parents. The workshops included:

  • Joe Slattery, CEO of JS Equine Assisted Therapies.  Why young people take drugs: ways of responding, a personal & professional perspective.
  • Dr Marie Kennedy, Senior Clinical Psychologist.  Understanding attachment theory and how it plays out in the mentoring relationship.
  • Trina O’Connor Academic and Practicing Community Criminologist.  One Good Adult – you make the difference.
  • Janine Carroll, Director of Restorative Now.  Repairing relationships through restorative engagement.
  • Leona Callaghan, Founder of The Haven Hub Suicide Prevention.  Suicide: recognising the signs and understanding how to help.

Finally we heard from James Doorley, Chair of the Board of Le Chéile, who officially launched Le Chéile’s new website and thanked all of the speakers and contributors on the day. We would like to thank all of the speakers for sharing their insights and experiences and, most importantly, we would like to thank all of our volunteer mentors for taking the time to join us virtually and for your continued support and dedication to Le Chéile. We hope that next time we will be back for a face-to-face conference and celebration.