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Co. Armagh volunteers featured in newly launched ‘Ordinary People – Extraordinary Times’ photo series

Volunteers from Armagh Rural Transport have been featured in the series for their amazing working delivering vital supplies to vulnerable community members

Volunteer Now, the lead organisation for promoting and supporting volunteering in Northern Ireland, has launched a new photographic series capturing the work of volunteers across all six counties helping local communities in need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Profiled within the new photographic series are volunteers and employees from Armagh Rural Transport and Craigavon and Banbridge Volunteer Centre.

Craigavon and Banbridge Volunteer Centre took to the roads of Armagh to deliver over 11,000 deliveries of essential supplies such as groceries, medicine and PPE to residents, as well as providing much-needed counselling services to those struggling with feelings of loneliness and fear.

Local volunteer, Sarah-Ann Wilkie from Lurgan, said: “The community spirit of all the volunteers made me so proud to be a part of it, and the need in the community was so great that it really changed people’s lives for the better. It was a privilege to help those in need and be part of the community, making a difference!”

Donna Stewart, Manager of Craigavon and Banbridge Volunteer Centre said: “There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer. Our community came together to make a difference at a time when an invisible enemy left people very vulnerable.

“Our partnership with Volunteer Now has been a great salvation for us and many communities during this crisis. Their ability to connect ready and willing volunteers to suitable opportunities is second-to-none and their help meant we were all able to work together as a community to support those in need at this time.

Armagh Rural Transport, based on the Loughgall road, provide affordable, accessible transport for individuals and local community groups throughout the county.

Over lockdown, the group saw the opportunity to use their resources to deliver goods to those in need. The group also worked closely with Tiny Life to deliver breast pumps to new mothers.

Armagh Rural Transport Project Manager, Diane Irwin, spoke of the impact the group had during such unprecedented times: “Everyone was impacted by the pandemic, which encouraged volunteers to do what they could to help. Many people we helped were so grateful for the support as they weren’t used to having to stay indoors.”

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 explains: “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.”

Proud Volunteer Sarah-Ann Wilkie, from Lurgan, has been featured in the series for her amazing contribution to the team of volunteers at the Craigavon and Banbridge Volunteer Centre.

Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “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.”

The full set of images from the ‘Ordinary People – Extraordinary Times Photographic Series’ are available to download as an e-book via the Volunteer Now website

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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