After 17 years volunteering Kieran decided to follow his heart
He felt he had a duty to the people we help to ensure SVP does the very best it can for them. But also to the generous donors, such as you, the people Kieran calls ‘the real heroes in this story’. We spoke with him to learn more about the person behind the new face of SVP.
Why did you join St. Vincent de Paul?
Very simply because I wanted to help those less fortunate in my own community and make a difference. I heard about the good work that the Society does, and continues to do in my community, and I wanted to join and be a part of that.
I run a local flooring business in the town of Clonmel and I would have always been aware of the levels of need that exist there. Our Conference helps people who are struggling with rents or struggling to provide food and education for their children. Whether that’s school trips, school uniforms, books or, in some cases, just shoes. We get the whole spectrum of needs that other volunteers in the country come across.
We also come across some cases of absolutely shocking poverty in our community, which is dreadful in this day and age. Nobody would think that it really exists to the level we have seen. People living in absolute squalor.
What has your Conference achieved over the years?
We see families that are struggling on an ongoing basis because of inadequate incomes. They may be on low paid work or part time work, or they may be on social welfare. It’s very difficult to raise yourself from this particular level. But there’s always hope for the children of these families. If you can get them educated, get them qualified in something and get a good job, then they can do well for themselves. And maybe their greater family as a result of that.
So we would have been involved in providing education support to many families. We would have seen the children through a third level course. Then go on and get good employment from this. These are our biggest visible wins.
During the recession we also would have helped a number of tradesmen. People who were struggling from lack of work. We would have helped them sporadically with rent or with various difficulties that they may have had. We helped them to get back to the place where they always should have been. We gave them back their dignity, and they’re now back running successful businesses again and supporting themselves.
What are your hopes for the Society as new National President?
My goal has always been to help as much as I can for those in need. As I progressed in the Society and became more aware of its work and structure, I ended up in various different officer roles. I took them on because I felt that by doing so I could help people at a greater level. I had been vice president for five years, and I had the choice to call it a day and just do what I’ve been doing all along, which is my conference work. Or would I focus my attention on leading the Society and doing whatever I could do to ensure that we, as a national organisation, can continue to help people in need throughout the island.
For the future of the Society, there is work to be done on governance, compliance, and new laws and regulations. These are good things and, in fairness, the members have been very open to these. But at the end of the day, we should not neglect the primary reason that we started off on this road as volunteers. And that is to look after the person in need. To help these people, through support and friendship, to get to a place where they are able to fend for themselves.
We cannot forget the donors either, they are the real heroes in this story. We’re just the middle people, the facilitators. We’re the ones who take the donations from the public and use that to change people’s lives. Without the donations, without the donors, there would be no St Vincent De Paul. We must be acutely aware of our responsibility to the donors in terms of ensuring that their funds are spent wisely and prudently, and how we communicate this to them.
Without you, without what you do, the sacrifices that you make to donate and to support us, there would be so many more people in our communities suffering.