Eileen's into the spirit of things
Votes flood in for mum of seven who works tirelessly with the Rape Crisis Centre
Local hero Eileen Calder topped the public vote of the Flybe/Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards last week and has stormed through to the semi-final.
Eileen has been involved with the Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre in Belfast for almost 25 years.
She has combined her work with completing a master's degree at Queen's University and raising seven children.
She was nominated for the Flybe/Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards by her daughter Ellen, who said: “Our mum is a fantastic mother. She continues to speak out on all women's issues including rape, abuse and sexual violence.
“Our mum is the voice for so many people throughout Northern Ireland and has saved many lives.”
Eileen is modest about her achievement and the inspirational work that she carries out. She said: “I am very, very honoured but there are other women who also do very good work at the centre.
“I am very happy that my kids still love me because, doing the work that I do, I might not have been there for them as often as I would have liked.
“I had no idea that my children had nominated me. It was a total shock when my husband opened the Sunday Life because I didn't really
understand what it meant before then.
“It's nice that despite all of the problems that we have, that there are still people who would think to nominate me for something like this.
“Only very recently my husband was diagnosed with cancer of the tonsil and within a week he had a serious operation. I thank God for the fantastic NHS services that are available because now he will be able to face radiotherapy.”
Eileen’s story will feature on UTV Life tomorrow evening and each week UTV will feature our heat winner.
We're still searching for inspirational local people like Eileen, whose stories of selfless acts will touch the hearts of all those who read them.
They could be a child of courage, emergency-service worker, a suicide-prevention activist, a teacher or a carer- anyone who has acted bravely or committed their lives to fundraising or caring for others.
The winner of the overall Flybe/Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Award will win a brand new Peugeot 107 car to recognise their contribution and the person who nominates them will win a pair of Flybe flights.
Each week we will feature four unsung heroes and then it's up to you to vote for the person you think best represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland in 2008.
The phone lines are now open and you can vote for your favourite out of the four local heroes we feature on these pages today using the phone numbers listed. Voting for these four nominees closes at midnight on Tuesday.
Next Sunday we will reveal who came top of the phone poll and open the voting lines for another four nominees.
We will do this every week over the next ten weeks. The top ten nominees featured over these weeks will go forward to a semi-final along with the next ten most popular as voted for by the public.
Out of these top 20 nominees, the public will be asked to vote for the final ten.
The finalists will be invited to a glittering awards ceremony, which will include celebrity guests, at Belfast's Ramada Hotel on January 20, when UTV's Julian Simmons will be MC along with another well-known TV star. A panel of judges will choose the overall winner.VOTES: Eileen Calder goes through to the semi-finals
Host: Julian Simmons
Prize: Peugeot 107