Volunteer Ireland
Connecting Communities Through Volunteering

Health and Wellbeing Awardees 2020

We are so proud to announce this years winners in the Health and Wellbeing Category. This year we are celebrating three outstanding volunteers in each category.

Read each of their inspiring stories below.

Margaret Hurley, Irish Wheelchair Association, Clare

Margaret (Mags) Hurley has been volunteering with the Irish Wheelchair Association in Ennis for over 15 years. Mags has been the backbone of the Ennis Branch, and has been the driver – literally and metaphorically – of hundreds of activities over the years. She is currently the Branch Treasurer, but also acts as a driver of IWA’s wheelchair accessible minibus when required.

Sometimes the needs that arise are relatively small, such as when Mags found out the Centre’s piano was out of tune, and conveyed this to the Branch committee, so that they could agree to cover the cost of a piano-tuner. Sometimes the local needs are greater, such as when the Branch provided match-funding so that the Centre could avail of a grant to purchase a new wheelchair-accessible bus.

Despite the considerable time commitment Mags gives to the local volunteer Branch, her dedication to IWA and our members is so strong that she also has another volunteer role with the IWA Charity Shop in Ennis. Thanks to her work in the Branch, IWA members in Clare have had opportunities to take part in sports competitions, pursue interests and hobbies, see different parts of the country on outings and trips, and by participating in group activities, to combat social isolation and develop friendships.

Maureen Keenaghan, The Alzheimer Society and Ballyshannon Community Garden, Donegal

Maureen is a local contact for anyone who has a loved one with Alzheimer’s, offering advice and support. She also worked many days in the Thrift Shop Donegal to raise funds for the Donegal Alzheimer branch as well as attending meetings and volunteering at the Day Centre.

She was the driving force behind the development of the Ballyshannon Community Garden. Maureen worked hard to keep it developing with wheelchair accessible beds and a sensory garden. Through her volunteering the garden has made a big difference to the community providing a quiet haven in the middle of town where people can go for a walk or sit and admire the view and enjoy the flowers, vegetables and allotments.

The garden is located at the back of the primary care centre and provides pleasant surroundings for the staff and visitors there. Flowers from the garden often adorn the local church and hospital. Through Maureen’s volunteering long lasting friendships have been made because of connections with the garden. Wheelchair access and wheelchair beds – another of Maureen’s visions – has also been achieved making the garden accessible to all.

William Cummings, Be Aware, Be Safe – Inner City Helping Homeless, Dublin

William is the volunteer founder of Inner City Helping Homeless’ mental health support partners BABS (Be Aware, Be Safe).

BABS came onboard 18 months ago as inhouse mental health support partners of Inner City Helping Homeless to respond to the increase in the number of homeless people experiencing mental health issues. The common feedback received from homeless people was that they feel they don’t have a voice, BABS gave them that voice.

Since BABS became a permanent inhouse partner of ICHH, William has branched out into doing outreach with the teams to assess the service users face to face that sleep out nightly. He regularly steps in if outreach is short of volunteers and during the COVID-19 pandemic he was going out nightly with equipment to wash homeless people’s hands and clean their tents to keep them as safe as possible from the virus.

He frequently spends hours on the phone with clients who are in a bad place mentally and will listen and support them and bring them back from the brink. He does this because he believes in the work his team do and the urgent need for proper mental health supports in homelessness.

His dedication to his role, and more importantly to his clients, even led him to holding a Connect Cafe in the ICHH offices on Christmas Day so people wouldn’t be alone and would have a friendly face and listening ear available to them.