Stories from the Frontline: I felt a sense of purpose during the lockdown serving the city

Stories from the Frontline: I felt a sense of purpose during the lockdown serving the city

The South Dublin County Volunteer Centre, in partnership with South Dublin County Council, is running a campaign called Stories from the Frontline in recognition of all those who volunteered or are still volunteering during COVID-19

This is volunteer's Robert O’Dowd and Orla Bird's story...

My name is Robert O’Dowd and from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic myself and my wife Orla Bird volunteered with Serve the City, Dublin.

As we are all too aware many lives have been turned upside down since the beginning of this global pandemic, and no one remains untouched by the unprecedented impact of this virus.

Stories from the Frontline Robert and Orla 1

Robert O’Dowd and Orla Bird

I have been in the event management business for over 25 years and run my own business based in Ballymount in Dublin, serving many corporate clients.

In March of this year, like many others, my day to day world was fundamentally changed as events could no longer take place.

During the initial days of this crisis, I heard an ad on the radio asking for volunteers to come forward and I jumped at the chance to play my part in the national effort to ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society did not suffer unnecessarily.

Soon after I volunteered, Serve the City contacted me to ask if I would be willing to volunteer with them.

Their primary aim is to mobilise volunteers to meet the practical needs of marginalised and vulnerable people in our community.

I was delighted to play my part and to provide practical support to those in need – and to be honest to keep myself busy.

They asked me to take on the task of weekly shopping for several vulnerable and elderly people.

While this sounds like a relatively easy task, given I had not been a regular grocery shopper for my own family of five for some time – it came with its challenges!

Deciphering writing, looking for unusual items and finding my way around the various different supermarkets with all of the restrictions in place, all proved to be an interesting experience, and a slightly different day-to-day experience than event management – but a great one nonetheless.

Over the course of the lockdown I did the weekly shop for two wonderful people, both of whom were extremely grateful and a pleasure to assist.

And if I’m honest it was fantastic to feel a sense of purpose for those months, to feel that I was playing my part, albeit in a very small way, in the national effort to combat the virus and help others in need. 

When I finished my time with Serve the City – I started with Food Cloud for 10 weeks.

[Food Cloud is a not-for-profit, social enterprise based in Tallaght that re-distributes surplus food to organisations and groups nationwide].

I worked in their warehouse sorting out all of the food/product donations coming in from different organisations and packing up orders going out to different charities and groups.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, as you were meeting lots of different people and learning about what they do within communities.

I would recommend anyone to give some time to both organisations as it is very fulfilling and important to understand what is happening in our communities. 2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenge and worry for us all, however helping the community has been one of the significant positives.

For further details on the work of both organisations follow them on Facebook or visit or

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