A special project has been launched to honour people who have volunteered within their local communities during the ongoing pandemic.
Volunteer Now, the lead organisation for promoting and supporting volunteering in Northern Ireland, has launched a new photographic series capturing the work of volunteers helping local communities in need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proudly representing the local area area are volunteers from Limavady Volunteer Centre and Age Concern Causeway.
Busy mum and French teacher, Karine Deniau-Miles, wanted to volunteer with Limavady Volunteer Centre for quite some time but found it difficult to find the time with work commitments and looking after a young family.
The Covid-19 response network set out by the centre gave Karine the opportunity to volunteer in a way that she hadn’t previously been able.
She said: “I volunteered in the food-bank three days a week for four months and since lockdown ended I’ve been able to continue volunteering one day a week. It almost felt like a selfish thing to do, as it made me feel so good to have such a positive impact on the local community at such a difficult time.
“I would recommend this experience to everyone and anyone who is able to spare some time to volunteering.”
The Limavady Volunteer Centre offers a range of services including dog-walking, newspaper delivery, food and meal deliveries and companionship.
Throughout the lockdown period they saw over 300 people volunteer their time and assistance.
Age Concern Causeway, another local organisation featured in the series, is an independent charity based in Coleraine.
Its aim is to provide social and support services for older people in the Causeway Coast and Glens area.
As the pandemic took hold of normal life, many older people found themselves in a vulnerable position, feeling scared and isolated.
To combat the uncertainty that many older people in the community were feeling over lockdown, the charity launched the ‘Community Care in Action’ initiative, offering telephone befriending services, grocery delivery and prescription collection for local residents.
Fergal Quinn, Manager of Age Concern Causeway, praised the invaluable work of the volunteers.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of this organisation,” he said.
“With their hard work and sacrifice, we were able to provide 7,500 acts of service during lockdown
“We helped to combat fear, anxiety and confusion in older people, as well as working together with local businesses to provide essential services.”
The ‘Ordinary People – Extraordinary Times’ Photographic Series featuring the local volunteers follows on from Volunteer Now’s #HelpEachOther Campaign launched in March which aimed to recruit volunteers to undertake specific Covid-19 related volunteering activity.
The campaign received a huge response, with over 4,000 people from every county across Northern Ireland stepping up to help their communities and register as a volunteer.
Denise Hayward, Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Now, said: “In the 10 years that Volunteer Now has been established in Northern Ireland, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been our greatest challenge. We are immensely proud of the work of the volunteers in helping to navigate this crisis.
“We want to ensure the efforts of Northern Ireland’s volunteering community are acknowledged and recorded for future generations as they look back on this unprecedented period of time.
“As such, we have embarked upon a photography project over the last number of months to capture volunteers in action at a time when ordinary people became extraordinary community heroes.
“We are delighted to now launch ‘Ordinary People – Extraordinary Times Photographic Series’ and provide a first glimpse of some of the striking images of the wonderful volunteers in action.
“The series is a fantastic testament to the spirit and generosity of the people of Northern Ireland and is our way of saying a huge thank you to the dedicated volunteers who continue to make Northern Ireland a better place.”
Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín paid tribute to the project.
“I am delighted that this photographic series has captured the efforts of the thousands of volunteers, who have been true heroes throughout the crisis, and have selflessly given their time to benefit others.
“Throughout the pandemic I have been truly heartened by the generosity and wonderful sense of community displayed in every corner of our society where people from all walks of life stepped forward to help.
“I have no doubt anyone who views the series online will feel a sense of pride in all our volunteer’s efforts.”
Volunteer Now also plans to launch the full photographic series as a regional photography exhibition across each county in the coming months, in association with local Councils, when safe to do so.
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