In 2010, Volunteer NOW and the Voluntary Service Bureau in Belfast obtained Heritage Lottery Fund money to conduct a two-year oral and social history project to capture the volunteer stories of over 110 people in all walks of life in Northern Ireland. The work led to the publication of a book called Volunteer Voices: Belfast’s Creative Extremists and an exhibit open to the public. The book also included several historical accounts of the evolution of volunteerism in Belfast, sometimes bleak but also hopeful. As the Foreword states:
Most of the past forty years of Belfast’s history has been turbulent, fractured and painful. The City suffered and over 1,500 of its people died; countless others injured. During the early 1970s Belfast experienced one of the largest movements of population in Europe since the Second World War. Later with the erection of ‘peace walls’ and interface barriers, it became, and still is, a physically divided city…Amidst this reality, however, are countless stories of people with hope. People equipped with enthusiasm and energy who gave their time as volunteers…and “faced the dragon’s fire” believing it was possible to make a difference.
In Voices, we excerpt some of the many inspiring examples of the power of volunteering told in this book.