Local unsung heroes nominated for ‘Shining Light’ awards

May 23, 2016

Two  of the area’s most dedicated volunteers have been nominated for a Shining Light Volunteer of the Year Award in the Confederation of Community Groups (CCG) Volunteering Awards of 2016.

Unsung heroes Damien Martin and Aoibheann Byrne have been nominated for their tireless efforts in bringing the lifesaving Crossmaglen Community and District First Responders initiative to fruition.

The scheme itself has also been nominated for a Community project award in recognition of its vital service to the local and wider community.

Damien is credited with spearheading the lengthy campaign to implement the scheme in the area, having first come up with the idea while undertaking a course in Emergency Medical Technology in Dublin.  Since 2014 he was the driving force behind a lobbying group which fought to get the project off the ground and both Damien and Aoibheann’s involvement in a host of fundraising drives secured the necessary training and equipment for the First Responders group.

The Crossmaglen and District First Responders scheme finally went live last November and has been providing a vital lifeline for the area ever since, with trained volunteers dispatched dispatched by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service control centre to attend medical emergencies throughout Crossmaglen, Culloville, Creggan, Glassdrummond, Silverbridge and Cullyhanna, to provide treatment to casualties as they await the arrival of appropriate emergency services.

Damien also works with the Cycle Against Suicide initiative, organising SpinOff events which bring hundreds of cyclists through the community to help spread the message that “It’s OK not to Feel OK and it’s Absolutely OK to ask for help!”

Aoibheann’s much deserved Shining Light nomination recognises her sterling work behind-the-scenes for the First Responders scheme as well as her efforts in running the weekly Culloville Luncheon Club  – a vital social outlet for the elderly members of the local community.

Damian Martin

Describing his nomination as “absolutely humbling” Damien told The Examiner he feels it is testament to the hard work done by all the volunteer First Responders who are providing essential life saving assistance to the residents of the area.

“Our nominations are a credit to each of our volunteers who give up their time to ensure cover is maintained on a 24 hour basis,” said the First Responders front man.

“It is also very fitting to see Aoibheann Byrne receive a nomination for her work behind-the-scenes with the group and the running of Culloville Luncheon Club where the elderly members of the community come together to socialise.”

Aoibeann Byrne

South Armagh Sinn Fein MLA Megan Fearon has offered her congratulations to the Crossmaglen First Responders on their Community Service nomination.

“It’s fantastic to see this excellent initiative being recognised in this way,” she said.

“The commitment and dedication of the First Responders, ordinary men and women who give up their time to help those in their community when they are most in need, is inspirational.

“Congratulations to everyone involved in the group. Awards aside, your hard work and commitment is appreciated by everyone in the community.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Terry Hearty said he was delighted to see the First Responders being honoured with a “well deserved” nomination.

“In an area with shamefully poor ambulance cover they provide a vital service to the local community at a time when people need it most,” he added.

“Hopefully this nomination will not only highlight the excellent work done by these dedicated volunteers but also shine a light on why such a group is necessary in this area.”

The ‘Shining Light’ Community Volunteering Awards were established by the Confederation in memory of Patricia Graham, a dedicated member of the staff team who sadly passed away in 2009. The Awards celebrate the contribution of all unsung heroes across Newry and Mourne and have grown year on year to become a keynote event in the community/voluntary calendar for the area. This year’s ceremony will take place in the Canal Court Hotel, Newry on Friday 3rd June, forming part of Celebrating Volunteers Week.