The drive to volunteer can come from anywhere. For Larry Masterson, it was something he was already committed to, but his volunteering took him in a new direction after he suffered a stroke.

Larry Masterson from Co Donegal leads the voluntary group Different Strokes for Different Folks, which he founded with other survivors after suffering a stroke five years ago. Here, Eoin Murphy gets some insight into Larry’s life:

What are you reading at the moment?

David Roland’s How I Rescued My Brain. It’s the story of David’s neurological difficulties and his remarkable cognitive recovery. It is also an account of a journey to emotional health and wellbeing.

What’s the last film you saw?

Tolkien. It was excellent, capturing the Tolkien spirit and magic. Its depiction of his childhood experiences and Oxford student years, together with subtle hints and images of the books to come, was well-balanced.

Person you most admire?

Ruairí McKiernan, born in Cavan. [Ruairí is an Irish social entrepreneur, innovator and campaigner on youth, community, health and social justice issues.]

The top four issues in Ireland today besides the economy?

Overcoming inequalities and defending human rights.

Climate change – reality needs to take hold.

Walking the walk to a better future.

Sustainable development goals outside of Dublin – taking stock.

Nationally, we need…

A good plan covering all the areas addressed in the Irish Heart Foundation’s Stroke Manifesto, with a commitment to providing multi-annual funding to execute this strategy.

We need less

Luxuries. And more health care services. We have been conditioned to believe that luxuries are a necessity; that we need things that most of the world doesn’t even dream of having.

What we need is very little: a few changes of clothing, a pair of shoes, perhaps a few toiletries (toothpaste, deodorant, soap), some food, a roof over our heads. There are other things, I’m sure, that you could consider.

What’s the best thing about the group you volunteer with?

Four years after my stroke, while trying to recover and process everything that happened to me, I founded Different Strokes for Different Folks and quickly became aware of our volunteering opportunities.

I’m determined not to let anyone go through the same horrible experience as I had. I remain one of four active Stroke Ambassadors and I play an active role in almost all of our campaigns.

What could your project/organisation improve on doing?

Raising awareness about age and stroke.

Confusion still occurs around the age bracket of people who have strokes. This confusion occurs because there are still articles published that state that strokes in the young are rare. Hence, people still shrug it off, saying, “It won’t happen to me – it only happens to the elderly”.

How long have you been volunteering?

Three years now.

How and why did you get involved?

I volunteered to change our community. To be willing to help a neighbour is what it’s all about.

Volunteering empowers you.

How can people change things?

The most influential voice in public policy is yours! We influence stroke-related policy by engaging decision-makers at every level of our government.

Telling your story can help others.

What motivates you as a volunteer?

Volunteering is a great way for many people to move forward. I first started volunteering in 2016. I was unable to return to work and volunteering helped give me structure and purpose, and build my confidence.

Volunteering makes you feel good and wanted. Plus, it keeps us out of trouble!

Larry is very active on his personal Facebook page, and an inspiring person to start your day with. The group’s Facebook page is a useful resource for those recovering from strokes.

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