Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph to honour Northern Ireland's local heroes

Launching this year's Belfast Telegraph Making The Difference Awards supported by Tesco are Stephen Bell of Tesco (right) and
Mike Gilson, editor of the Belfast Telegraph
Launching this year's Belfast Telegraph Making The Difference Awards supported by Tesco are Stephen Bell of Tesco (right) and Mike Gilson, editor of the Belfast Telegraph

The search has begun to honour the unsung heroes of Northern Ireland.

Today the Belfast Telegraph Making the Difference Awards, supported by Tesco, is being launched, and we need your nominations.

After the huge success of the inaugural awards last year this newspaper is once again searching for the inspirational individuals, projects and businesses that make a positive impact on daily lives across the province.

We want to shine the spotlight on and celebrate the people in communities throughout Northern Ireland who make life better.

Do you know a remarkable young person who has achieved remarkable success? Or a neighbour who works tirelessly for the people who live around them?

There are 11 categories including Best School, Spirit of Youth and Carer in the Community.

After all the nominations have been received, three finalists will be chosen from each category and a winner selected by our judging panel.

All finalists will be invited to a gala night in the Grand Opera House on March 23, 2012, when the overall winners will be announced.

Today the first nominations are revealed.

They include brave Ryan Cinnamond, who is nominated for the Spirit of Youth Award.

After suffering an aneurysm, the 16-year-old talented footballer was given just a 10% chance of survival and had both lower legs amputated. But he survived and went on to complete his GCSEs and learned to walk again.

Lana Wells Gant from Donaghcloney has been nominated for Best Volunteer.

After losing her young son to meningitis she is helping to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

The inaugural awards held last year discovered 11 uplifting and humbling winners.

Mike Gilson, editor of the Belfast Telegraph, said: “We were absolutely overwhelmed by the stories that we uncovered in the first year of the Making the Difference Awards. They were truly inspirational and it is fair to say the majority of the people featured had never been heralded in a newspaper before. We hope friends and colleagues will get nominating straight away.”

Caoimhe Mannion, marketing manager for Tesco, said: “Tesco is delighted to be able to support this special celebration recognising local unsung heroes.”

The categories in Making The Difference 2011

Best Street: We want to find the street where there is an amazing sense of community pride and is shown through activities such as clean-ups, street parties or activities which involve everyone in the neighbourhood.

Best School: A school that has an ‘outreach’ project which involves pupils going into the community to spruce up gardens, raise money for local causes or has gone ‘green’ within the school.

Best Volunteer: Someone who has worked tirelessly for a charity or in the voluntary sector for many years or has proven to go above and beyond their role.

Best Neighbour: A person considered to be the ‘heart’ of the street. They look after other neighbours, either by running errands, give lifts or are just always there to help and listen.

Best Enterprise: This business takes charity fundraising seriously. They have either done something for the environment or ‘give back’ to the local community through school programmes.

Best Art/Sport/Community Project: We are looking for the artist who runs classes for underprivileged children or the elderly, or the sports coach who teaches football to young people—someone who helps give groups fresh purpose.

Spirit of Youth: This is for a bright spark who has demonstrated great achievements at a young age. Either they have joined an orchestra at 15, or achieved great academic, sporting or artistic heights.

Service with a Smile: This is the ambulance driver, shop owner, home help, or meals on wheels worker who gives their all to their job and the people they help.

999 Hero: Someone who, through an amazing act of bravery, has saved a life. They can be either a member of the public or emergency services personnel.

Best Garden: This ‘oasis’ does not need to be acres of landscaped beauty but it could be the little urban garden that brightens up dull streets, or a small back garden.

Carer in the Community: We want to find an amazing person who has dedicated their time to looking after someone in their home.

Making The Difference Award: The overall honour awarded to the outstanding individual, organisation or project that has made a huge contribution to the community.

How to get involved

Nominations can be made by anyone who knows a person, project, business or a even a street they believe worthy of an award.

The public can enter two ways:

1— Write a nomination in no more than 200 words clearly stating the category and contact details of nominator and nominee and send to Making the Difference Awards, Belfast Telegraph 124-144 Royal Avenue, Belfast, BT1 1EB. Or ...

2— send an email to:

As well as choosing a winner for each one, the judging panel will also select the winner of the overall Belfast Telegraph Making The Difference Award.

So who is in the frame to win our hero awards?

999 hero

The crew say they were just doing their jobThe Red Bay RNLI lifeboat crew dismiss suggestions they are ‘heroes’, saying that saving lives is just “part of the job”.

But the brother and sister they dramatically rescued from rocks on the north Antrim coast at the start of August would most likely disagree.

The pair were stranded while walking in the beautiful but dangerous boulder field at Fair Head rock. After raising the alarm the crew quickly launched the Atlantic 85 lifeboat Geoffrey Charles and battled through rough waters to reach them.

In order to get to the frightened pair, a ‘lifeline’ had to be created with a rope. Lifeboat crew member John Walsh had to bravely put on a drysuit and lifejacket, enter the water and swim out to them.

Helmsman Paddy McLaughlin, who has been a member of the RNLI since he was 17, said it was a difficult operation.

“It was a tricky rescue, it took about three hours all in,” he said.

“It was just hard to reach them because of the location of the rocks. But we got them safely ashore.”

Mr McLaughlin said they are “just doing what they are trained to do”.

“We aren’t in it for the glory. As soon as we get the call the training just kicks in,” he said.

“I suppose you don’t think about it.”

Best business

Charity work: Michael McCann Drinks giant Diageo is a global company but is a strong supporter of making a difference to the community here.

Throughout the past 18 years Diageo has donated over £320,000 to over 200 worthy charities in Northern Ireland as part of their annual Diageo Northern Ireland Community Awards scheme.

And this year Diageo Ireland launched GIFTED, a grant scheme to support charitable organisations across the communities that Diageo employees live and work in. The initiative is designed to recognise employees who give significant personal time to volunteer and support their communities. It provides 18 individual awards to employees of up to £5,000.

Michael McCann, head of Diageo NI, said: “GIFTED recognises the good work that many of our employees are doing in supporting their local communities. This is the first year of what will be an annual scheme so we hope that Northern Ireland's high success rate encourages even more applications from across all parts of the Diageo business here.”

The environment is also a priority for the business with clear targets being set including zero waste to landfill, reduction of water usage and recycling of all waste packaging materials.

Best carer

Devoted son: Adam cares for his disabled mum Katrina who is ‘so proud’ of her boyAdam Kaleta is in many ways a typical 16-year-old boy. The teenager from Newtownards, Co Down, likes to socialise with his friends and talk on the phone.

But Adam can’t enjoy the typical things a normal young person can whenever they want.

Despite his young age he has a huge responsibility and spent his childhood being a carer for his disabled mum Katrina. A horrific car accident at 16 crushed her spine leaving her in a wheelchair.

But the single mother-of-two also suffers from psoriatic arthritis as well as progressive fibrolmyalgia, a condition which means she suffers pain in her muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Since he was six years old Adam, a pupil at Regent House, has been helping to care for his mum and sister Shauna (11).

He is one of the thousands of young people in Northern Ireland who care for a parent or sibling, said he is happy to help as much as he can.

He said: “Caring for my mum is the life I have always known. For me it's second nature.” His mum said Adam deserves to be recognised for his devotion. “Adam lives his life every day going that extra mile for people no matter who they are. Being his mum makes me so proud.”

Best garden

Willie Jack in his garden at the Duke of York barThe Duke of York bar is in the heart of Belfast city centre, but thanks to one man it has been transformed into a little urban oasis.

The idea to create a beautiful environment for customers was the brainchild of Willie Jack.

He bought the Duke of York in 1986 at a time when the Belfast city centre was seen by many as a no-go area.

Now with artistic murals painted in the entrances leading up to the bar, hanging baskets and ‘Belfast’ benches outside, it is an area of cosmopolitan tranquility. “It is not rocket science, but flowers make a huge difference,” he says. “Customers are happier, people smile, all ages come in and just say it is lovely.”

He said the area has slowly transformed since violence dominated the city: “There were some who might have been frightened during the Troubles to come into the centre of town. Now they come and sit on one of the Belfast benches, have a cup of coffee or a drink and enjoy the atmosphere.”

Best neighbour

Tireless: Mary KellyBeing a good neighbour can be about just putting the kettle on, making a cup of tea and listening.

But for one Belfast woman being neighbourly has also been about working tirelessly for her street and entire community to end division.

Mary Kelly has lived in the Glandore area in the north of the city for 33 years and has been described by friends and colleagues as the “heart of the street”.

During some of the darkest periods of the Troubles the 63-year-old has worked with others to develop summer schemes and programmes to keep children off the streets and out of trouble.

Through her work with the Skegoneill Glandore Common Purpose project she has been dedicated to make the lives of her neighbours better. Earlier this year Mary’s home was targeted twice in a pipe-bomb attacks.

“There have been some tough times, and this area has seen some bad things, especially over Drumcree a few years ago,” she said.

“But you have to talk to people. Building community spirit and pride is so important.”

Best school

Girls at Ashfield School in Uganda Pupils from Ashfield Girls School in east Belfast walk the halls of an innovative new school building filled with modern technology.

The new ICT specialist school stands on the Holywood Road but thanks to a major outreach project spearheaded by the pupils a new Ashfield School also stands in Africa.

After a two-year project and tireless fundraising efforts they donated £40,000 for the school building and orphanage in Iganga, Uganda.

Principal Alison Mungavin said the pupils are involved in many outreach and charity projects but they are “very proud” of this achievement.

“We put a target up in the hallway of the school. And they thought of many different ways to raise the funds. A sponsored walk alone last year raised £9,000,” she said.

Ms Mungavin said they also received support from the Parents and Friends of Ashfield. “There has been huge support from everyone — it wouldn’t have been achieved otherwise,” she said.

Best art/sport/community project

It is an innovative project that helps to kick out racism and sectarianism from communities through sport.

Set up in 2004 as a pilot project in north Belfast, Midnight Street Soccer had a simple aim— to help prevent crime in flashpoint areas.

Six years later the project managed by the North Belfast Play Forum has proved a resounding success and has now spread across the province.

It provided young people aged between 13 to 17 years old with an alternative to being drawn into anti-social behaviour whilst helping them to develop their physical health and well-being. Project Manager Billy Wylie (36) said they are delighted by how big an impact it has had on communities in the area.

Best street

Twins Michael 'Italy’ and Aaron 'Brazil’ O'Neill , with Robert Robinson (right) and Odhran Dunne (centre) play football in Iris Mews in west Belfast |colm lenaghanPaula Brown: ‘A great idea’Flags have in the past led to division across Northern Ireland but for one street they proved to be a unifying force.

The residents in Iris Mews in west Belfast had 32 flags hanging from every house in the street, representing each country taking part in this year’s World Cup.

Neighbours signed up to a sweepstake agreeing to fly the flag of whichever country they selected.

The day of the World Cup final between Holland and Spain they organised a street party and bouncy castle for the children.

Paula Brown (34), who has lived in the street for 11 years, said it was a great talking point.

“It was a great idea. I think is was a wonderful street to live in before. It is funny how something like that can make such a difference.”

Ms Brown, who has two children, said there are plans to have more events involving the residents, young and old.

“It was such a big success we are planning to have more street parties,” she said. “I think it sets a great example to the kids growing up here.”

“This started off as a pilot project in 2004. Nobody could have envisaged how successful this would be,” he said.

Best volunteer

Dedicated: Kay LundyKay Lundy is a volunteer dedicated to helping others. The 60-year-old from Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, is partially sighted and started working with the RNIB NI in July 2008.

The charity regard her as vital support for advisers in the Benefits Advice Service who help more than 1,700 people each year.

Through their work they have helped generate over £1.5m in additional income for blind and partially sighted people in each of the past two years. And her work as an administrator ensures that funders receive all the details they need and that the case files are up to date and integrated into the overall client database.

David Mann, RNIB NI Campaigns Manager, explained Kay helps to maximise the independence of a “great many people” with sight loss who might otherwise suffer financial difficulty because they find the benefits system just too daunting or complex.

Mr Mann said: “We are nominating Kay because she is dedicated, reliable, efficient, and above all is always looking for ways of expanding her role. And she is always smiling!”

Belfast Telegraph


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