Retirement offers the chance to do the things you don’t have time for while working. It may be an ending, but it’s also a new beginning. Remember the words of CS Lewis “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream…” A retired archaeologist, Eleanor Murray has a positive and passionate attitude towards retirement and is making the most of her free time. Eleanor decided to give back to her community and started volunteering at the Children’s Project in Spiller’s Lane, Clonakilty in 2009. Kat O'Connor meets her there. (Retired archaeologist Eleanor Murray on left of picture)
The Children’s Project charity shop was set up in 2008 and is run by a group of hardworking and inspirational volunteers that give up their time to help others. The shop is currently donating to the Ethiopia Deaf Project, Cork Simon Community, Aurelia Trust, Pieta House and Cork University Hospital’s Neo Natal Unit. Eleanor loves being part of the team and believes that volunteering has a very positive impact on her life. “I like coming in here because you get to meet people and get out, it’s social… I love it.”
According to the World Volunteer Web there are numerous benefits to volunteering. Firstly, volunteering helps you develop new skills, whether it’s customer service skills or communication skills. Secondly, another benefit to volunteering is meeting a wide range of people. You will interact with people from all walks of life when you volunteer, whether you travel to Africa to help build a school or work behind the counter in the charity shop in your village. Volunteering has a positive impact on one’s mental health as it gives you a sense of achievement. The hard work that you do, as a volunteer, will help make a difference in the world. Knowing that you are doing something good for others will make you feel a sense of fulfillment and will motivate you to achieve more. This is one of the benefits that has impacted Eleanor the most. When she stands at the counter, serving customers she knows that the money they are making will go towards a worthy cause. She finds the work easy, yet extremely rewarding. “Even if it’s €10 or even if it’s €5, it’s all so helpful…” says Eleanor. Volunteering has given her the push to get out of bed in the morning and to have a productive, fulfilling day.
Before she started volunteering at the Children’s Project Eleanor worked as an archaeologist travelling to a variety of places from Kerry to Oregon in the United States.
Always passionate about archaeology, when her children had grown up and left home, Eleanor decided to take a brave leap and go back to education in her mid 40s. She fulfilled her dream and studied to become an archaeologist for three years. She adored her work and said meeting people at the University of Oregon was one of the best memories she has of her time as an archaeologist.
Unfortunately Eleanor was diagnosed with breast cancer and then osteoporosis, which prevented her from working in the cold, harsh conditions common on archaeological sites.
Never one to let life get her down, she decided to pursue a childhood passion – painting. She attended numerous art courses in Skibbereen where she learned the tricks of the trade. “It showed me different things, how to work with paints, acrylics…new skills.”
Eleanor has had a number of art exhibitions showing around West Cork, including exhibitions in Clonakilty and Skibbereen. Her work has also been displayed in the window of the Children’s Project charity shop, which was very special to her. She says that it was “… a great feeling seeing people stopping to look at your work.”
Eleanor’s motivation to go back to education has rewarded her in so many ways. She fully believes that it’s one of the best things people can do when they are older or after retirement. “It is extremely beneficial because you’re learning new skills, as well as meeting new people and getting out of the house.”
Eleanor believes there are many options out there for anyone struggling with retirement or unsure about what to do with their days. Her advice is to do a class, join a course, or work in a charity shop. “Get out! Don’t sit at home,” she says.
If you have recently retired or are unsure about what to do with your free time don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut. It’s never too late to pursue your dreams, to travel or to go back to education. Always remember that there is so much to do after retirement and that it’s not the end, it’s just a brand new chapter.