Every Friday morning, Desmond O’Hara, 80 from Ballynamoney near Lurgan, gives up his time to help others, volunteering at leading local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s (NICHS) Craigavon and Banbridge Wellbeing Group. For NICHS, volunteers like Desmond are vital to providing the charity’s life-changing services for people affected by chest, heart and stroke illnesses in local communities across Northern Ireland.
Desmond has been volunteering with NICHS for over ten years and explains how he became involved with the charity; “I started working with NICHS as a volunteer driver for the community transport provider DART. Then I became a volunteer bus escort, helping people get to what was then known as the Craigavon and Banbridge Activity Group.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic sadly meant NICHS had to stop the group for a while, but I am now back helping out at their monthly wellbeing session and it’s great we can all meet up once again. I help out with quizzes, arts and crafts activities or simply have a chat with the people who attend the group.”
Volunteering for the charity is something Desmond enjoys as much now as a decade ago when he first started working with them; “It’s great. It gets me out and about and I sometimes think it’s done more for me than the people I volunteer for.”
“What else would I be doing? Sitting about the house, doing nothing! I think volunteering is great for your psyche. The people I work with are so grateful and it makes you take stock of how lucky you are.”
Desmond has a long history of giving his time to help others, having started with a volunteering role visiting patients in hospital in the 1960s. Throughout his employment at the Social Security Agency Desmond also met a lot of people in need and this motivated him to continue volunteering to help the local community.
As well as NICHS, Desmond has volunteered for a number of other charities. In recognition of his many years of service to the community, the Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Glenn Barr, recently invited Desmond and his family to have afternoon tea at his chambers.
Lynne McIlroy, Care Services Co-ordinator for NICHS adds, “Desmond is one of our long-serving volunteers and he is a fantastic asset to the charity. We rely on the support and goodwill of volunteers and Desmond is a shining example of someone who selflessly gives up their time to support local people affected by chest, heart and stroke conditions. Desmond’s 80th birthday was a special milestone, but it is a testament to his dedication to supporting those in need that he continues to volunteer when many others would have taken a step back and put their feet up!”
“Without reliable and friendly volunteers like Desmond, NICHS’s programmes and groups just could not run in the same way. Post the COVID-19 pandemic many of our volunteering opportunities have been left vacant as we have returned to delivering our services in the community face-to-face, so we feel extremely lucky to have such amazing support from Desmond here in the Craigavon and Banbridge Wellbeing Group.”
For more information about volunteering for Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke contact, 028 9032 0184. To find out more about the charity’s care and support services visit, https://nichs.org.uk/our-support-services.