A volunteer with Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) for the past four years, Jason Boyle, who is married with two children, began contributing to charitable causes from a young age.
When he was involved in the Order of Malta as a young man, Jason, 50, looked after older people, taking them out for evenings of activities with their peers.
Volunteering in his spare time to benefit others is just something he has always done. “It is a natural thing for me to want to help others,” Jason said. “When I look at the work SVP do, and the help we provide, it is to people at their most vulnerable and when they are most exposed. To be in a position to help these people is a privilege.”
Jason, who is in charge of the East Cork area for SVP, from Glanmire and Cobh to Youghal, is also the treasurer of the Midleton Rugby Club, where his son plays. He is also on the board of the local secondary school and gets different things from the different organisations.
“It can be as simple as a sense of achievement,” Jason said.
“With SVP, though, it is different: I know with SVP I can make a real and tangible difference in someone’s life. That could be as immediate as making sure a child has food to eat or books for school, to longer-lasting impacts by supporting someone in third-level education.
"There are so many ways to make a difference, but at the core is just that: Making a difference for individuals and families when there is nowhere else for them to turn.”
Locally, in Aghada and the surrounding area, Jason carries out home visits. “What I have learned is, no matter a person’s circumstances, they are generally not there by choice. Poor decisions, or circumstances beyond their control, have resulted in hardship and the need for help. That can happen to anyone.” With Covid-19, visits have been replaced by phonecalls and the true, complex situation on the other end has become less obvious.
Jason said when SVP pairs do home visits, they talk and listen, while assessing the needs of the individual so as to understand the underlying issue, which may not always be discussed openly. “From an SVP perspective, it has gotten much harder to help properly, due to social distancing and health guidelines,” Jason said.
“For a long time, we have been restricted to helping over the phone: Not ideal. Hopefully, we will get back to helping face to face properly, sooner rather than later.”
As an insight into the types of situations that they encounter in SVP, Jason told the following story: “We once had a lady arrive home to find her electricity cut off a few days before Christmas. She has a young daughter in primary school and she had been supporting other family members, such as her brother and father, but she was struggling with her own bills.
"She had never sought SVP assistance before.
"We met with her and spoke for over an hour and when she was finished, she was in tears, because she had been supporting everyone and sorting their lives, while her own was in trouble, and this was the one time she got to unburden herself and for that alone she was thankful...
"SVP did help and get her reconnected in time for Christmas... the fact that we were there to listen to her, and the value she placed on that, is something that will always stay with me.”
Jason is setting up an SVP hub in Castlemartyr and looking for people to get involved. People can volunteer for whatever aspect they like, whether visitation, education, retail, social housing, or fundraising.
- To offer your help to the East Cork community, email EastCountyCork.firstname.lastname@example.org; to find out more about the work of SVP, visit www.svp.ie