10 people from Northern Ireland have received a Diamond Champions award for their outstanding volunteer work.
The award winners will meet Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall at an event honouring their achievement at St James's Palace in November.
Diamond Champions, run by older people's charity WRVS, recognises the contribution that people over the age of 60 make through volunteering. More than 100 people from across Northern Ireland were nominated as Diamond Champions.
Award for Volunteering
The 10 Diamond Champions, chosen by a regional judging panel, were presented with a specially designed Diamond Champions pin by Dame Mary Peters at a celebratory event in the Andrews Gallery at Titanic Belfast on Wednesday 17 October. They also received a certificate signed by Their Royal Highnesses, who are joint Patrons of the awards.
The 10 Diamond Champions from Northern Ireland will join 70 others from across the UK at the event held at St James’s Palace.
The Northern Ireland judging panel included Claire Keatinge, Commissioner for Older People; Jonathan Hegan, Former Chair of the Titanic Foundation; Patricia Donald, Chair of the Age Sector Platform; Joe McVey, Chair of Volunteer Now; Gloria Hunniford; Mrs Joan Christie OBE, HM Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim; and BBC presenter Wendy Austin.
Margy Washbrook, Manager of Engage with Age, said:
"It is with great pleasure that we announce the Diamond Champions from Northern Ireland. They are truly deserving of the honour and it is justified recognition of the selfless work they do in their communities to help others. It was incredibly hard to choose Diamond Champions from all the nominations we received; all the nominees are fantastic examples of the incredible volunteering work being done by older people across Northern Ireland.”
The Diamond Champions
The 10 Diamond Champions from Northern Ireland who have been invited to the event at St James’s Palace are:
1. Mr. Robert Alexander
From: Larne, volunteers for many organisations
Robert is “at the heart of everything good that happens in Larne borough”. He has volunteered for 15 years with the Larne Tuesday group an interdenominational community group, he is a founder member of Larne round table and Larne and district and Housing Association. Robert has given social and financial support to the local children’s home and helped to launch 6 cross community Alpha courses. He has volunteered with YMCA, Boys brigade and the Community Relations Forum. His involvement helped the process of communication, reducing sectarian tension and activity through informal mediation work. Robert is a man of integrity who freely gives of himself significantly changing hearts and minds.
2. Mrs. Alice Kidd
From: Antrim, volunteers for many organisations
Alice worked as a volunteer with the Girl Guides for 20 years, volunteers now with Trefoil Guild and Women’s Institute. She runs a Tuesday night craft class and helps with Riding for the Disabled, helping children with learning difficulties. As a friend of Antrim hospital Alice guides visitors round the hospital and looks after floral displays. Alice has been involved in numerous fund raising activities for the cardiac support group, Home First, help the Aged and Save the Children Fund. Alice has cared for several family members and close neighbours. Alice is a tower of strength to her family and her community.
3. Mrs. Vida Lake
From: Omagh, volunteers for many organisations
Vida works tirelessly for a number of organisations reaching across age groups and cultures, by going the extra mile she selflessly serves the whole community. Vida was a founder member of Omagh Integrated primary school, a volunteer with the Youth centre and for 15 years was a UNICEF volunteer and fundraiser including visiting East Africa to represent NI. Vida provides transport for older people and people suffering from mental ill health to medical appointments, she works is the Oxfam shop and set up the local ethnic minority support group. She is also a member of St John’s Ambulance driving ambulances, home nursing and fundraising for over 25 years.
4. Mr. Sean McCaffrey
From: Belfast, volunteers for many organisations
Sean has been volunteering for over 40 years. His unique contribution is that he uses his skills and knowledge to encourage, enthuse and support others of all ages. He currently volunteers about 30 hours per week delivering a story telling programme in schools and nurseries, organising history projects and cross community trips. Sean is Chair of the Friends of Ballyowen group, supporting families with relatives in sheltered accommodation. Sean is a fluent Irish speaker with a love of language and the arts and in this connection broadcast a local community radio programme dedicated to older people. Sean always volunteers with a smile on his face.
5. Mr. Brian Maguire
From: Omagh, volunteers with NI Phoenix Organisation (NIPO)
Brian volunteers for 30 – 40 hours per week even though he is the sole carer for his wife who has mobility problems. His work with NIPO and the RUC GC Association supports former security service personnel and their families. He has dedicated years of effort to help others who have suffered from the effects of the Troubles and has always gone the extra mile. Brian is a trained befriender and prides himself on the support he gives to socially isolated people. Brian continues to develop his skills to ensure he can provide the best service he can to others.
6. Mr. Bill Morrow
From: Belfast, volunteers for Volunteer Now
Bill has over 50 years as a volunteer and shows no sign of stopping. At the moment he drives vulnerable older people to health-care appointments, chairs a retired senior’s group, helps at events and works with the Men United programme. Bill always puts the needs of others first and nothing is too much trouble for him. Bill spends about 10 hours a week volunteering and is a real inspiration to staff and volunteers. Bill is also involved in the Scout Movement and is being honoured this year at an event at Westminster Abbey where he will receive a long service award (50+ years).
7. Mr Brian Mullan
From: Glengormley, volunteers for many organisations
Brian has been volunteering for 35 years and gives about 40 hours per week working for several community regeneration groups, health groups and housing associations in some of the most disadvantaged areas of North Belfast. Through his efforts he has contributed to the social, physical and economic regeneration of North Belfast. Brian managed to secure funding for a youth programme to reduce the risk of young people being involved in anti-social behaviour. Brian is an unsung hero who goes quietly about his business, doesn’t talk about his achievements but his work greatly enhances the quality of life of those most in need.
8. Mr Henry Philips
From: Crumlin, volunteers for many organisations.
Henry started volunteering with the Young Farmer’s Clubs 55 years ago. He has worked as a tutor to help people with public speaking and as an adjudicator with public speaking and debating teams. Henry is an ambassador for many community groups in Lisburn and Glenavy including Glenavy Development Partnership, Youth project, Crewe United Football Club, Rural Community network, GAA and Lagan Rural Partnership. Henry’s commitment knows no bounds; he always goes the extra mile in his unassuming, honest, hardworking way and inspires others with his boundless enthusiasm.
9. Mr Jim Pierce
From: Belfast, volunteers for Lighthouse, which supports families bereaved through suicide
Jim got involved with Lighthouse after losing his twin daughters through suicide. Since then Jim has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the organisation and those in crisis or bereaved through suicide. He selflessly supports newly bereaved families by giving them time to talk and listening to their stories. Jim spends many hours organising fundraising events including football tournaments, skydives and bag packs, but also doing more mundane tasks like stuffing envelopes. Jim is an inspirational character who impacts on everyone he encounters.
10. Mrs. Annabel Poots, volunteers for many organisations
Annabel has been volunteering for about 56 years. She has previously been awarded the MBE and the Mayor’s Award for Volunteering in recognition for her contribution to community life in Lisburn. Annabel volunteers for Mencap, Lisburn Gateway Club, the Downtown centre and the Royal British Legion. Among her many duties Annabel supports, mentors and befriends people with learning difficulties and mental health problems. Annabel has developed her own skills by continually taking on new challenges and different roles. She always has a smile on her face and is an approachable, welcoming lady who makes herself available to those in need and puts other people first.