Recognising Belfast’s Unsung Heroes

unsung heroesWe can be a cynical bunch in Northern Ireland, overlooking the good news stories and the selfless and inspiring people working in our midst.

Today at a 4 Corners Festival event titled ‘Belfast’s Generosity to the 4 Corners of the World,’ Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon recognised the life changing work carried out by local aid agencies around the world.

She presented ‘Unsung Hero’ awards to individuals from the various organisations – Fields of Life, Trocaire, Christian Aid, Habitat NI, Children of the Nations, Saphara, Oxfam Ireland, International Justice Mission, Tear Fund and Concern – whose efforts and generosity too often go unnoticed.

The event also featured an address by historian Philip Orr about how Belfast resisted the slave trade, which can be read in full here.

It’s worth taking a moment to let yourself be inspired and motivated by the examples of:

Andy Murray – Christian Aid: At 86-years-old, Andy has been a volunteer for Christian Aid since the 1950s. With his late wife Edna, he began organising collections for the organisation at Townsend Street Presbyterian Church, before expanding out into door-to-door collections in Ballygomartin and beyond. And he’ll be knocking on doors during Christian Aid week again this year.

Gerry O’Hare – Trocaire: Gerry passed away recently, so was represented at the reception by his son David, who also volunteers with the organisation. Gerry worked with Trocaire from the time it set up its first office in Belfast in 1986, motivated by a firm Christian conviction and righteous anger to address the injustices in the world.

Brendan McGurgan – Concern: Brendan has volunteered for Concern for more than 30 years, and is a founder of the Concern Randalstown Support Group. He has raised more than £25,000 over the years through staging events such as quizzes, fasts and street collections.

Anne Campbell – International Justice Mission: At just 18 years old, Anne has been volunteering with IJM for the past 18 months. IJM has only been operating in Northern Ireland for the last four years, so they depend mightily on volunteers like Anne, who has taken the initiative to organise her own events and to gather support from her local church.

Emma Lynch – Saphara: Saphara, which means ‘journey’ in Hindi, is a cross-community organisation for young people in Northern Ireland. Emma has been involved for several years, establishing herself as a leader among her peers. She has travelled on the organisation’s trip to India and this year is serving as coordinator of a team on its way to India.

Tearfund – Stephen Adams: Stephen has volunteered with the organisation for more than 20 years, and was instrumental in setting up a branch of Tearfund in the Republic of Ireland. He is renowned for his presentations about Tearfund’s work in local churches, where he has been known to convince seven-year-olds to carry 20 litres of water around the church to demonstrate what it is like for children in Uganda.

Children of the Nations – Stuart Drennan: Children of the Nations is still in its first year in Northern Ireland, and Drennan has been one of its most dedicated volunteers. He has led two major fundraising campaigns: one for children orphaned by Ebola in Sierra Leone, and the other a cycle through every county in Ulster to help young people in Malawi attend university. He is currently planning a fundraising cycle from Mizen Head to Malin Head.

Fields of Life – Neville Woods: Four years ago Neville travelled to Uganda to see the work of the organisation there. Since then, he has mobilised groups in his business and in his church to raise more than £350,000 for its work. For the last three years, he has undertaken a 24-hour sponsored fast on Christmas Day.

Habitat for Humanity – Alan Cavan: Alan has worked at Habitat’s Lisburn ReStore since it opened two years ago, amassing 713 volunteer hours. He has shown exceptional leadership to the team of 50 volunteers, establishing friendships with a number of young volunteers who have used the skills they gained working in the shop to gain paid employment.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Good luck to them all in their efforts and worthy of our admiration….thanks for reminding us that there are some selfless individuals out there in our wee neck of the woods.