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The Covid-19 heroes raising spirits in Northern Ireland

Every week, we salute the local people whose selfless efforts make the pandemic that little bit more bearable

This week we honour four more unsung Covid-19 heroes who have gone the extra mile to show us the real spirit of Northern Ireland.

Sunday Life and Ulster Bank have teamed up to honour and shine a spotlight on their vital roles during the coronavirus crisis and give each £150 of shopping vouchers, plus a certificate of recognition.

We want to recognise and reward NHS workers, care workers, delivery drivers, retail staff, police officers, council bin collectors, postal workers, food bank volunteers, neighbours and members of your local community who go the extra mile to help others.

On our judging panel for the Spirit of Northern Ireland Covid-19 Heroes awards initiative, which is replacing the annual awards event for this year, is champion boxer Carl Frampton, Derry Girls star Jamie-Lee O'Donnell and Q Radio presenter Jordan Humphries, along with representatives from Sunday Life and Ulster Bank.

Here are their stand-out stories from all your nominations this week. We will bring you more Covid-19 heroes next week.

Chloe Stevenson

Chloe started working for Peninsula Care Services after finishing her A-levels at Strangford College two years ago. The 20-year-old from Donaghadee is now the only face-to-face contact for some of her elderly and dementia-suffering regulars during her 14-hour days.

She not only bears the huge responsibility of helping keep her at-risk users safe from infection but also has to manage her own obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety.

When asked how work had been since the crisis took hold, Chloe said: "Intense, a bit crazy. I was only diagnosed a year ago. I'm just getting on with it because I love all my wee clients and I couldn't leave them.

"I work in the community, so I drive to all my clients' houses.

"I work with people who have had strokes and have dementia. It's different day-to-day. You get them washed, you do their lunches, then their teas and then their beds.

"I found it really hard at the start, but I just processed it and once I was given the personal protective equipment, I was able to bring myself round to it."

Some of her clients have been isolating for 12 weeks and have only seen their family through a window, while others are completely alone.

"We do something to brighten up their days. We bring them a chocolate bar, or if it's their birthday get them a birthday card," she said.

Chloe's grandmother also has dementia and her grandfather has been in and out of hospital, so she has stepped in to help look after her on top of her usual rounds.

Nico Caskey


Nico Caskey Spirit Of Northern Ireland winner 2020 with his mum Treena Clarke and dad Dave Caskey.

Nico Caskey Spirit Of Northern Ireland winner 2020 with his mum Treena Clarke and dad Dave Caskey.

Nico Caskey Spirit Of Northern Ireland winner 2020 with his mum Treena Clarke and dad Dave Caskey.

It was Captain Tom Moore who inspired the seven-year-old Newtownabbey lad's marathon effort to raise money for the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice by doing laps of his area.

After two weeks of walking, cycling and scooting through Merville Garden Village, he had collected a total of £775 and covered 26.2 miles.

Mum Treena said: "He saw Captain Tom on the TV one day and said, 'Do you think I could walk to raise money for people?' I said I was sure he could.

"He said about raising money for kids on the hill, which is the children's hospice, as we live quite close to it. Nico said they didn't have coronavirus, but maybe they didn't have any toys to play with, so he decided to raise money to get things like a Nintendo Switch.

"Where we live, it is exactly 1.25 miles around the village. I said if we do 22 laps of the village, it would be the same as a marathon.

"We set out to walk a lap a day and see how we got on. We thought we would raise £100 from friends and family, but then it just spiralled.

"He loved it and on the last day a lot of the neighbours came out of their houses and clapped at their front doors to spur him on."

Pamela Skey

Pamela Skey

Already a volunteer with St John Ambulance alongside her job in the South Eastern Health Trust, the mum-of-two set up Here to Help because she knew some of those who would likely be worst affected by the lockdown.

It has now delivered more than 1,000 meals and care packages in the Donaghadee area thanks to volunteers and businesses who answered the call.

"We were able to get funding from the council and the Big Lottery Fund to get care packages out to those who couldn't get out themselves," Pamela told Sunday Life.

"I was also able to make deals with a few local traders for free meals each week which we delivered. Everybody has really pulled together.

"Everyone has been fantastic, but there are five girls I have to mention - Pauline Moore, Lindsay Oldfield, Lesley Anne O'Malley, Joanne Courtney and Lisa McKnight."

Ken Davidson


Ken Davidson Spirit Of Northern Ireland winner 2020.

Ken Davidson Spirit Of Northern Ireland winner 2020.

Ken Davidson Spirit Of Northern Ireland winner 2020.

Retired baker and amateur bagpipe player Ken decided to join the Belfast shipyard siren to give a more tuneful note for his neighbours during the weekly Clap for Carers.

Such is his talent, the 75-year-old was then asked to play for the staff at Belfast City Hospital and the Mater Hospital.

"I went out every Thursday night to play the bagpipes to lift the neighbours' morale, then it was actually a girl across the road who organised for me to go over and support the doctors and nurses," he said.

"They've done a tremendous job and put their own lives on the line dealing with this."

Ken's wife Janitha bought him a set of pipes so he could take up the hobby again after 30 years away from it. Now, every year he pipes in the haggis during the Burns Night celebrations at his local Methodist church.

When it comes to practising the famously loud instrument, Ken said: "The wife puts me out into the garage and the dog next door sings along."

To nominate your hero from every walk of life and every corner of the province send a message with details of what they have done to spiritofniawards@sundaylife.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph