Exchange Dublin is a non-profit arts center located in Temple Bar, Dublin, which catalyzes the proliferation of cultural events through free or low cost programs. Opening in May of 2009, Exchange Dublin was created in order to enable arts based programs in the city due to the lack of space available to do so at that time. Their goal has been and remains to be a non-alcohol common space for people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with each other. Examples of programs organized by Exchange Dublin include Zumba, Capoeira, movie nights, and dance classes.
After volunteering at Exchange Dublin for a few weeks, I learned that the organization has been fighting eviction for the last couple of months. As I’ve stated earlier, Exchange Dublin is a non-profit organization that puts on free or low-cost art based programs for the public. Because of the lack of income, Exchange Dublin struggles to pay their monthly rent of approximately 900 euros. Because my role at Exchange Dublin was never specific, I decided to focus on doing what I thought would benefit the organization the most: raising money.
Each week myself and other volunteers sell candy and other baked goods during school, in our residence halls, and at Exchange Dublin during their most popular programs. We use our own money to purchase the supplies and give all of the profits directly Exchange Dublin to maximize the profit and help them pay their rent. Although we only raise about 20-30 euros each week, I know that our efforts to help the organization are greatly appreciated by those who work there. Each person that works at Exchange Dublin does so voluntarily, demonstrating his or her devotion and love for the organization. The thought of Exchange Dublin, the place that they hold so dear, being shut down upsets many of the volunteers and causes them anxiety. By fundraising for them, I can help alleviate their stress and help give back to the community by supporting an organization that helps provide a healthy, non-alcoholic environment for everyone.
When I first began volunteering I wasn’t sure how I felt about the organization. The organization was extremely democratic with nobody in charge and my role was undetermined. I thought that Exchange Dublin was a place where people went when they had nothing better to do; however, after spending time there and learning more about the organization my opinions changed. The people who volunteer there and who participate regularly value Exchange Dublin as their second home. To them, it is a safe place to express themselves without having to worry about the daily stresses of their lives such as income. So yes, Exchange Dublin can be viewed as a place people go when they have nothing else to do but what I have come to understand that having some place to go is what is important. Exchange Dublin welcomes anyone into their organization with no preconceived notions or judgments, allowing anyone of any background to have a safe environment. Growing up in a small, sheltered, town, I’ve taken for granted the simplicity of having a place to go. I have come to realize that not everyone is as fortunate as I was and may not have a safe home to return to, or have enough money to be able to attend classes or programs that can be used for creative outlet or support. I now understand why Exchange Dublin means so much to its volunteers and those who go there – its not just an organization, but rather, is a support system, a place one can call home. This realization has changed the way I view things – simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean insignificance; everything has importance, you just have to look close enough to see it.
Through my volunteer work at Exchange Dublin I have gained a better understanding of the society I am now living in while also gaining skills and abilities that will help me in the future to succeed in the workforce and grow as a person.