A kind-hearted soul, from a charitable and supportive community in Waterford, Fiona Kennedy, has been living in Cork for the past 12 years and credits her local area Rathgormack with instilling an impetus to volunteer.
Fiona said that, as a youth, she was involved in the Junior St Vincent De Paul helping out in the local community after school and on the holidays as well as pitching in with the local Meals On Wheels, organising a monthly party for older people, and also being a part of the Christmas Toy Appeal.
During the pandemic, Fiona found herself drawn to give back again as an adult.
Living in Cork and working in retail, Fiona is used to a fast-paced, busy environment and when the first lockdown hit she signed up to Cork Volunteer Centre to find an outlet for her energy that would benefit others.
“I signed up with the Cork Volunteer Centre during the first lockdown and I was trying to find something to suit me. I cycle everywhere and some positions needed a car, and there were other issues, but when I found Rebels Against Waste, I knew this would suit me.”
Rebels Against Waste is a project delivered by Cork Volunteer Centre.
The idea behind the project is to bring community and voluntary groups and volunteers together to share ideas and increase awareness around waste prevention in Cork City.
Since joining the group, Fiona always carries two bags with her wherever she goes to pick up waste and recyclables that have been discarded across the city.
Fiona said growing up in the Waterford countryside, she and her mother were always out picking up litter and recycling plastic and cans found by the side of the road or in the forest.
“It was something I was already involved in and a problem I was aware of.”
Fiona said she started to go out for walks, specifically to pick up rubbish and to recycle plastic and cans that she found on her way to shops, etc.
“It has definitely given me more of an incentive to get out and about and there is a great satisfaction in knowing I am doing something that benefits my local neighbourhood.”
The Waterford woman said growing up in Rathgormack definitely helped to instil a sense of community in her that she has retained.
“I was around 10/11 when we fundraised for a local community hall and in the countryside, there was no cinema, there wasn’t a lot to do and without volunteers we would have had no activities. When something needed to be done, we just joined together and did it.
“I benefited from organisations like Foróige as a teenager and that wouldn’t have been possible without volunteers. I would hope that if I’m ever in need again that there’s someone there willing to help too.”
Fiona also said being a part of Rebels Against Waste helped her to get through the restrictions of the pandemic.
“Even when I couldn’t go outside the 2km/5km radius and my workplace was closed, I was still able to contribute something small to my area. Anybody can pick up a stray bottle at a bus stop, but unfortunately, not everyone does.”
The retail worker said that helping out with Cork Volunteer Centre is something she really enjoys.
“What’s great about this is that I don’t really feel like I am giving up any time. I’m already out for a walk or a cycle and I’m just picking up a few things along the way. I’m getting fresh air, exercise, and a small sense of accomplishment for leaving a path cleaner than how I found it.”
Fiona also said she thinks the problem of littering is getting worse.
“I don’t know if I’m just more aware of it, but there are so many face masks and rubbish on the streets and pavements. I think as indoor dining was closed for so long, many more people were eating outdoors and then not disposing of the packaging.
“This and facemasks seem to be contributing to a rise in litter around the place. The lack of bins aren’t even to blame. Many times I can see multiple bin options from a spot where I’m litter picking.”
She encouraged more people to get involved with Rebels Against Waste by joining the Cork Volunteer Centre.
More information is available on volunteercork.ie