12 November 2023
By Elaine Murphy
Irish Charity, SERVE marked its 20th anniversary this weekend in Cork. Volunteers from across the island joined for an evening of nostalgia.
Gerry O’Connor, chairperson of SERVE explains, “SERVE was founded in 2003 by a group of eleven young adults from Ireland who worked in the Philippines with communities who were disproportionately affected by a lack of basic human rights. These volunteers were immersed into local communities. The Irish volunteers, Filipino peers, and partner organisations all had a positive experience. It was agreed at the time that this initiative would continue. SERVE has assigned 1200 volunteers to different countries since 2003”.
Over the last 20 years, SERVE has worked in countries like Brazil, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Gerry O’Connor explains, “From the beginning, driven by solidarity, all SERVE initiatives were characterised by a partnership approach. SERVE has actively helped partners create educational and employment opportunities for thousands of young people, whilst also proactively removing barriers for people with disabilities to ensure full participation in educational and employment programmes. In the last 20 years, SERVE has raised over €24 million to support their international partners.”
With the support of the Irish people, SERVE has also responded to natural disasters in Haiti, the Philippines and Mozambique, and to those affected by war in Ukraine.
Gerry O’Connor adds, “We are delighted to bring our alumni together to thank and honour them for their enthusiasm in staying involved with us over the years. They have kept SERVE alive through fundraising and advocacy. We’ve asked a lot from them – be it hiking the four highest peaks of Ireland, or cycle to Malin to Mizen, or complete the Run-a-Muck challenge. And, they have always risen to the challenge with their generous time and efforts.” SERVE has just finalized an ambitious new Strategic Plan focused on international development and global citizenship education.
The gathering in Cork was an opportunity to honour 20 years of solidarity, change making, advocacy, and friendship.