Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Popular nonagenarian credits voluntary work for long and healthy life

By Diarmúid Pepper

 As the inspirational and hard-working Sabina Reel from Silverbridge celebratd her 90th birthday on Thursday, she spoke to The Examiner about her life-long commitment to helping others and how this work has kept her going strong.

When asked what it was that kept her so sprite and active, the popular nonagenarian had a simple, yet thoroughly apt, answer: her voluntary work. 

“Voluntary work keeps me active, to be truthful. I haven’t got Alzheimer’s or anything like that, and perhaps that’s down to my work that keeps me busy.”

Sabina has a long history of voluntary work, and this work ethic is as vigorous today as it ever was, although she forlornly reveals that she can only work on Thursdays and Fridays, as the Cullyhanna Community Centre has cut back on Wednesday activities.

Ever humble, Sabina says that her work here includes “helping with the rural transport scheme and making tea and dinner; helping on the usual things.” 

The rural transport scheme that she nonchalantly speaks of, for example, is a vital scheme that provides transport for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Popular nonagenarian Sabina Reel from Silverbridge celebrated her 90th birthday on Thursday.  She is pictured here cutting her cake at a surprise party organised by family and friends last weekend. The dedicated community volunteer was guest of honour at the Cullyhanna Luncheon Club event where she celebrated with friends at the club she helped establish almost 30 years ago.

Sabina started volunteering in a day care centre in 1984, and has been continuing this work ever since. In 2012, her work was formally recognised when she received the prestigious Award for Excellence in Volunteering from the then Health Minister, Edwin Poots.

She has also been on a Lourdes committee, and the Silverbridge committee for senior citizens.  In addition to this, she set up the Cullyhanna Luncheon Club in 1989, and it’s been flourishing ever since. 

Sabina was full of praise and thanks to the Cullyhanna Luncheon Club for all the flowers and gifts they, and others, gave her for her 90th birthday. Indeed, the Luncheon Club will also be celebrating a significant milestone soon, as the club’s 30th birthday is in November of this year.

Sabina has training in mental healthcare, a diploma in “Community Leadership”, and has spent time helping with the Alzheimer’s Unit in Newry.  Of her voluntary work, she says: “I’m glad to be able to be there and be an assistant to people. That keeps you going; you’re listening to other people’s problems, you meet some people with issues, and you think, “what have I to complain about?””

Sabina has seen a lot of change in her lifetime, but is mindful of the pressures young people face, particularly due to the rampant rise of mobile phone technology. She said: “Well to be truthful, I think mobile phones are used too much. When I married here in 1973, there was a landline, but there weren’t many phones, I can tell you that. But you must go with the times, so I don’t pass any remarks. Sometimes I even use the mobile phone myself.”

When asked about the secret to her long and healthy life, she gives this response: “Keep going; keep your mind occupied by doing something for the community, like voluntary work. Keep yourself occupied and be amongst people, putting your all into voluntary work; I would advise anyone to do that. There’s always something that you can do to help, maybe helping with older people or less abled people or those with learning issues. Keep out and keep about!”