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Ken McCawInterviewer:  Tell us a bit about yourself.

Ken:  Oh, where to start?!  I’m 57.  I’m retired, I worked most of my life on public service.  And I now, in later years, discovered volunteering.  And I do lots of that, a lot with Volunteer Now.  I have two daughters, both growing up with their own families and I have five grandchildren.  And the whole problem at the moment is I can’t get to see them.  But that’s changing, hopefully.  So… yeah, I live down in Bangor, by the sea in Northern Ireland, and I enjoy it.

Interviewer:  So what are your passions?  So what are you looking forward these days?

Ken:  I was thinking about that, actually earlier, and I think what gives me the most satisfaction is helping people.  Yes, all through my working life, I was dealing with people in all sorts of various circumstances and when I felt most fulfilled was when I was able to help people.  That has carried through with what I do in volunteering.  I enjoy being able to help people.  I’ve volunteered quite a bit at the Belfast City Airport as a Visit Belfast Ambassador until COVID hit – I enjoyed that, particularly because it was meeting people coming from all different countries in the world.  And they were coming up to visit Belfast and then asking, What do I do here?  How do I get here?  Where can I go, etc.  And you were able to really give them a lot of information that helped in their planning and all.  But even if it’s another event like the Open Golf, the Tall Ships or anything like those activities I have been involved with, what I enjoy is dealing with people and helping them.

Interviewer:  Do you remember when you first volunteered?

Ken:  Ah, my first encounter with volunteering wasn’t in Northern Ireland.  In 1997, I got the opportunity to go to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for the workplace and for the World Police and Fire Games that were being held there that year.  I went as part of a contingent that went from Northern Ireland, a plane load of people.  But there the whole organisation of the thing was done by volunteers and I was amazed at what they did, and how they were looked after.  And I actually was back in Canada 2 years later with my wife for our 25th anniversary.  We linked up with lots of people I met back in 1997.  In 2013 the games came to Northern Ireland.  And when I saw that happening, I thought, Oh, yes, I got to be involved with that I really want to be involved with that.  And that was my start and when I got involved with Volunteer Now – I’ve never heard of Volunteer Now before that but I certainly know a lot about it now.  I enjoyed that very much.  And my volunteering has gone on from that and have since then done lots of different events and activities.  Volunteer Now introduced me to the Irish Football Association, which introduced me to voluntary radio work as well.  Volunteer Now has also introduced me to Visit Belfast with whom I volunteer at the Belfast City Airport.  So volunteering has opened up lots of doors and has been a really exciting part of my life.

Interviewer:  Which type of volunteering do you prefer and what do you like most about it?

Ken:  Probably events is what I have the most experience and what I enjoy, but I’m also, as I said, involved with Belfast 89 FM  local radio station.  And that’s all voluntary, but you’re working with a team and you’re learning… I mean, it’s not something I’ve ever done before.  In Newcastle, County Down, a number of years ago, there was an Irish Open golf tournament, and there was one particular day where I was put on a team of 5 at a particular place and initially I thought, “this is going to be a drag, I would rather be in the golf course” and actually, it turned out to be one of the best days of my life!  Certainly one of the best days of my volunteering life, because I think we had a South African, we had a Canadian, we had somebody from New Zealand, and two people from Ireland.  And we all got on famously and it was just a marvellous day.  So the interaction you have with other volunteers and meeting people is very rewarding.

Interviewer:  Do you have any other funny stories or special moments from your volunteering journey that you’d like to share with us?

Ken:  I’ve had a number of fascinating experiences at the Belfast airport.  And I’m a sort of a guy who if I’m going to Latvia or Portugal or Spain or wherever it is… I have it all planned, I know what I want to do, I know where I want to go, I know the things I want to see.  And it amazes me the amount of people who arrive at the airport visiting from wherever – usually America – and they have no idea.  One lady arrived, and she said “I want to go to Donegal to see certain cliffs and I want go to Dublin, and I want to go to see the Cliffs of Moher in Galway or Atlantic Claire” and I said “How long are you here?”  And she says three days.  “There’s just no way you’re gonna do that in three days”… but again – being able to help those people and being able to point out that information and being able to show on a map.. Yeah, lots of lots of things like that – there’s been lots of fun experiences.

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