KBRT opens new centre in Newry

October 17, 2016

The Newry based repatriation fund which has helped over 200 bereaved families across Ireland has opened a new centre in Newry.  The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust was set up just over three years ago to bring home the bodies of loved ones who have died in sudden or tragic circumstances abroad.

The trust began its vital work after Newry man Kevin Bell died in a hit and run accident in New York in June 2013.  Kevin was just 26 years old and his tragic death was devastating for his family and huge circle of friends.  Repatriation can be expensive and the financial support they received from the fundraising efforts of both the local community and Kevin’s friends abroad was overwhelming, with around £150,000 raised in a matter of days.  In the end, Kevin’s employers in America covered the cost of bringing him home so his family decided to use the money they had received to set up a trust in his name to help other families in the same situation they had found themselves in.

So far the KBRT has helped 217 families on both sides of the border, bringing people of all ages and communities back home to their loved ones.  Up until three weeks ago the important work carried out by the trust was being done from Kevin’s family home in Newry.  Now the KBRT has opened a new office in Rooney’s Meadow in Whitegates Business Park in Newry.

Speaking about the opportunity to open the new KBRT centre, Kevin’s father Colin Bell explained how the work he and his family have been carrying out for the trust over the last three years had “completely taken over” their family home.

“Our kitchen table was just full of things to do with the trust. We had a filing cabinet in the bedroom and boxes all over the house,” he said.

“We were offered an office in Whitegates and now we come in on a Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 1.30pm and we get everything done and then we can park it and go home.  If there is a repatriation ongoing we can do it by phone but we’re not living with it 24 hours a day as we were.

“Our main aim is whenever a family does get that devastating news and they feel they’ve no-one to turn to, what we can do is take it out of their hands, we’ll make the arrangements, get their loved ones home, and take that worry away from them.  Apart from paying for the repatriation, I think that’s the biggest thing we do.”

Mr Bell says the trust is Kevin’s legacy and that the work carried out by himself, his wife and Kevin’s brothers and sisters helps them all.

“The work of the trust means that Kevin hasn’t died for nothing.  There’s something coming out of his death and we’re happy to help other families because we’ve been in that position.  It is therapeutic for us as it does keep us busy and it keeps Kevin’s name alive.  It doesn’t take away the pain but it does help us.”

The number of people being brought home by the KBRT has grown enormously since its inception. In its first year the KBRT reached out to families, taking home 26 loved ones while in the second year the number grew to 40.

As a result of a meeting with the Minister for the Diaspora in the Republic earlier this year, every embassy and consulate in the world now has the Kevin Bell Trust’s contact details and in the last year of its operation the charity has helped 140 bereaved families across Ireland.

Colin says the sheer amount of people the fund has helped to repatriate does beg the question as to what families did before the trust was set up.

“There is not a week goes by without two or three people of all ages all over the world to be repatriated,” he said.

“I think it was a charity that was needed and we’re happy to do it.

“Kevin always said he would be famous.  He was a big character. There weren’t enough hours in the day for our Kevin, he loved life and he would be proud that his name is being kept alive.”

Referring to a picture of Kevin which takes pride of place on the wall of the new offices, Colin said, “He’s always here, always with us.  He was a young man who enjoyed life and his name continues.”