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Minister pays tribute to contribution of Northern Ireland's 'selfless' volunteers amid coronavirus crisis

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Praise: Deirdre Hargey

Praise: Deirdre Hargey

Praise: Deirdre Hargey

Voluntary organisations in Northern Ireland do work worth more than half a billion pounds a year, it has been revealed.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has thanked the thousands of volunteers who help others, as Volunteers' Week gets under way today.

The minister said a light had been shone on volunteers' contribution to society in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Volunteers' Week recognises the contribution volunteers make to our communities.

Ms Hargey said: "I would like to express my gratitude to the thousands of volunteers throughout the year who selflessly give their time to benefit others, which greatly enriches our society.

"The current health pandemic gripping almost every country in the world has demonstrated the value of volunteering.

"I am truly heartened by the generosity and wonderful sense of community on display in every corner of our society where people from all walks of life stepped forward to help."

She continued: "Everyone has a vital part to play, those who have got involved in compassionate, creative and meaningful ways delivering food for others, collecting and delivering essential items from pharmacies so that the most vulnerable can be protected, and those who provide telephone support that reassures people confined to their home, I say a big 'Thank You'.

"We are fortunate that a strong sense of community prevails despite the changing pace of life. Acts of kindness by our volunteers help create successful, strong, vibrant and prosperous communities which makes for a better place to live and work."

Volunteer Now takes the lead in promoting and encouraging volunteer organisations to thank volunteers for their hard work.

Across Northern Ireland there are around 282,000 formal volunteers, whose work is carried out with or under the auspices of an organisation, and 470,000 informal volunteers.

Individual formal volunteers give an average of 13.4 hours each month. The annual economic contribution of regular formal volunteers, based on an hourly wage of £11.49, is £504m.

Individuals aged between 35 and 49 and those aged between 16 and 24 years old are the most likely to volunteer, while 61% of all formal volunteers are female.

Denise Hayward, Chief Executive of Volunteer Now, said: "During the current crisis, we know that the role volunteers have played has been very important and we want to say thank you. We also know that many people who would normally volunteer are not able to as some are self isolating and some organisations are going through difficult times and their volunteers are not currently engaging in their usual roles.

"With this in mind we feel strongly that is it important to mark the week and to use it as a 'Time to Say Thank You' to all volunteers.

"We want to highlight the individual acts of kindness which are keeping everyone going at this difficult time, as well as remembering all of the volunteering which normally takes place throughout the year."

Belfast Telegraph