Annual search for BT Woman of the year

BT Woman of the Year in the Voluntary Sector was Kathleen Murphy, Centre Manager, Newry and Mourne Carers with sponsor Neil Holland, Sales and Marketing Manager, firmus energy.

Do you know a carer worthy of winning a Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year award?

It was for her selfless work supporting carers that Kathleen Murphy was chosen as the very worthy winner of the 2007 Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Voluntary category, being sponsored for the secon d time by firmus energy.

Since then, this very strong and dedicated woman from Newry has tragically found herself in the unfortunate position of having to depend on a carer herself to get through the day.

Kathleen, who has worked with Newry and Mourne Carers’ group since it was formed in 1987, and who has been the driving force behind what will be Ireland’s very first purpose-built carers’ centre in the town, has been battling a serious respiratory illness for the past six months.

The single mother of four has had to rely on her daughter, Lorraine, who accompanied her to last year’s awards ceremony, for daily care.

It is a role reversal which does not sit well on the shoulders of this very independent woman.

Says Kathleen: “I have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulminary Disease which has forced me to be off work for six months.

“I have been in hospital three times and my daughter has had to care for me and I am now reliant on nebulisers and inhalers.

“If I climb the stairs, I have to sit and rest and usually I would have been running everywhere, so it has been tough.”

But as serious as her condition is, the drive which led to Kathleen being nominated and eventually winning our Voluntary Woman of the Year Award, is as strong as ever.

She says: “I’m still doing what I can from home and don’t intend to let it stop me from being there for the carers.

“I am determined to fight it and get some quality of life back. It’s a case of learning to live with it and learning to manage it.”

Kathleen said winning our award has had a major positive impact on her work.

“Even now, after a year, we are still getting letters weekly about the Woman of the Year Award, it has been absolutely wonderful and gained so much recognition for the work that I do and for family carers.

“We have had a lot of referrals as a direct result of the coverage in the Belfast Telegraph and it has really boosted our work and what we are trying to achieve.”

Newry and Mourne Carers was set up to support unpaid carers and to provide them with respite and advocacy services.

Kathleen has been pushing to have a centre opened in Newry where carers could come to get information, take time out and relax or simply share their problems.

The Centre, which will be the first of its kind in Ireland, will have a games room for young people, a reflection room for those wanting quiet time, an arts and pottery crafts course and coffee shop, as well as an information room.

It was due to open in January but has been delayed because of Kathleen’s illness.

Says Kathleen: “They have been hanging in there for me to get better before it is officially opened and I hope that will be soon.

“It’s going to be unique in terms of the service it offers and we really hope it will make a big difference to peoples’ lives.”

On a personal level, Kathleen described what it meant to her and her family to receive her Woman of the Year Award.

“My work is very rewarding and I get great satisfaction from it, but I’m just your average person, so I never dreamt in a million years that I would win an award for it.

“It was wonderful to be recognised and know that somebody values what you are doing — that was a good feeling.

“Until the day I die I will never forget that wonderful, very moving awards ceremony and then to have my name announced as a winner was beyond my wildest dreams.” firmus energy is sponsoring the voluntary category in our annual Woman of the Year Awards for the second time.

The company’s general manager, Mark Prentice, comments: “We are delighted to continue our support of the BT Woman of the Year Awards and are especially proud to sponsor the category of ‘Voluntary Sector’.

“firmus energy is bringing natural gas to 12 towns and cities across Northern Ireland and we believe it is important to work with local charities, groups and initiatives to proactively contribute to each community. In doing so, we often meet many inspirational women across the province who make a real difference by sacrificing their own time to help others.

“We fully support this award and are delighted that it gives the unsung heroines across Northern Ireland some recognition for the hard work that they do.”

The search is now on for nominations for this year’s Woman of the Year Awards in association with Spar.

We want to hear from you about inspirational women you know who have gone the extra mile or had to cope with unusual and challenging circumstances in their lives.

Once again, the awards will culminate in a gala ceremony be held in the Ramada Hotel at Shaw’s Bridge in Belfast on October 22 and will be hosted by the BBC’s Wendy Austin.By nominating someone, you and a friend will be in for the chance of winning one of five pairs of tickets for the awards ceremony, worth £100.

If you want to attend the awards ceremony, tickets priced £50 can be bought by calling JPR on 9076 0066. Nominees and those nominating must be over 18.

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