Contributor: Mags Matthews

Athbhliain faoi shéan is faoi mhaise daoibh.

Happy New Year.

Did you know that the month of January was named for the ancient Roman God Janus, the two faced God of beginnings. Janus looked simultaneously to the future and the past, a fitting symbol for the first day of the year.

So, as the new year begins, don’t just look backward, look ahead. Imagine what your life will be like 20 years from now, as the famous writer Mark Twain said the choices you make in the new year may affect and direct the course of your life for years, or decades, to come.

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the past and set goals for the year ahead. Many choose New Year’s as the time to turn over a new leaf. Smokers vow to kick the habit. Some decide to change to a new and improved lifestyle. New Year symbolizes the birth of hope and the renewal of life. A fresh calendar encourages us to fill in the blanks with ambitious projects for home, community and personal improvements.

Getting involved in your local community of Virginia would be a good start to the New Year. I believe that getting involved in your community is beneficial for both your mind and your body. There’s a sense of connection and solidarity and it is a powerful experience.

Communities give us a home, friendships, warmth and a sense of belonging. The people and places around you have such a profound impact on you and your well – being. Believe it or not the reverse is also true. You have the power to change the things and people around you in a positive way .

It is no secret that each community has many great organisations. In Virginia we are lucky and volunteering at its best can be seen in the involvement of our volunteers in sport. All one needs to do, is to look at Ramor Football Club, Lurgan Ladies, Virginia Rugby Club or Cavan Eagles Basketball, to name but a few sporting organisations, to see the level of volunteerism that exists. Volunteers turn up for every training practice and develop new skills in our youth and provide a positive impact on the lives of the young people in our town. A sense of satisfaction, pride, and accomplishment is achieved.

Our local Churches, schools, charity shops would not exist without volunteers. Other groups like Virginia Town Teams, Virginia Development Association and Virginia Tidy Towns work to transform our community for the better. These organisations help to build a sense of satisfaction, and promote a pride of place, purpose and accomplishment.

Volunteerism makes up the very fabric of our community.

Volunteering plays a critical role in empowering individuals in fostering active citizenship and in building inclusive and resilient communities in which we can flourish. Volunteering has many benefits for individuals who volunteer, the organisations to which they contribute and society as a whole.