Dromore charity Via Wings is honoured with Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Via Wings, a charity with a dedicated and loyal team of volunteers based in Dromore, Co. Down have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 8:54 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 8:56 am
Via Wings, a charity with a dedicated and loyal team of volunteers based in Dromore, Co. Down have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Some of the team are pictured above

The Ulster Star can reveal today the Dromore charity have been honoured with the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

Via Wings was born in 2009, offering a wrap around service, aiming to support people in our community in a practical, non-judgemental way.

Via Wings told Ulster Star: ‘‘We have an ‘any situation through the door’ policy when it comes to helping people, but the main issues we tackle are poverty and living on the bread line, social isolation, mental health issues, crisis and emergency situations.

Via Wings is one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year

‘‘Programmes we run include a foodbank, three social enterprises, counselling and mentoring, an afterschool club for disadvantaged children, an education and skills programme for young people with learning disabilities, an older peoples supper club, art and music therapy, and pastoral care for older and isolated people.

‘‘None of this would be possible without our amazing volunteers, many of whom have received some sort of support during their lives and now selflessly give back to their community.’’

Via Wings is one of 241 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.

The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

Sue and the rest of the team at Doggos Doggy Daycare (including Hunter , pictured) have raised funds for Miles4Minds Ramore2Dromore walk

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities.

It was created in 2002 to celebrate The Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

Award winners this year are diverse, with volunteer groups from across the UK, including an inclusive tennis club in Lincolnshire; a children’s bereavement charity in London; a support group for those living with dementia and their carers in North Yorkshire; a volunteer minibus service in Cumbria; a group supporting young people in Belfast; a community radio station in Inverness and a mountain rescue team in Powys.

Representatives of Via Wings will receive the award crystal and certificate from David Lindsay, Lord-Lieutenant of Co Down later this summer.

Via Wings is a charity with a dedicated and loyal team of volunteers based in Dromore, Co. Down

Furthermore, two volunteers from Via Wings will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2022, pending restrictions at the time, along with other recipients of this year’s award.

Via Wings founder Gail Redmond BEM said: ‘‘Our volunteers really are the heart and soul of Via Wings.

‘‘We could not do any of the work we do here without their dedication and selflessness.

‘‘I am truly delighted that they have been recognised with this most prestigious award which shines a light on the continued vital service they provide for so many in our community.

Sue and the rest of the team at Doggos Doggy Daycare (including Hunter, pictured) have raised funds for Miles4Minds Ramore2Dromore walk

‘‘They are our unsung heroes and we will be forever grateful for their generosity with their time, effort and love.’’

The well-deserved prestigious award comes as the Via Wings team are preparing to take on the mighty Miles4Minds challenge, walking from Portrush to Dromore to raise awareness of mental health issues and raise funds to renovate the Via Wings Wellbeing Centre for all the community.

A Via Wings representative said: ‘‘We will walk over 69 miles from Ramore to Dromore over three days, starting on July 1 at Ramore and finishing in our home town, Dromore, Co. Down on Saturday, July 3.

‘‘We will be joined along the way by volunteers, supporters and some doggo friends! If you would like to walk alongside us for part of the journey, get in touch.

‘‘At Via Wings, we believe mental health issues affect everyone at some point throughout life - our neighbour, your work colleague, your child’s school friend, someone you love, and even yourself.

‘‘Northern Ireland has the highest rate of mental health issues in the UK with one in four affected.

‘‘Children’s mental health illness is rising rapidly, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘‘Despite this, current referral times to receive help are a staggering six to nine weeks. Something has to change.

‘‘In our community, as in many other across the country we have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of mental illness and suicide.

‘‘Not everyone can be ‘fixed’ but the aim of our Wellbeing Centre is to walk alongside those struggling and help to provide tools for coping through counselling, wellbeing therapies and mindfulness courses.

‘‘By taking on this challenge to walk from Ramore to Dromore, we walk beside those facing mental health challenges.

‘‘We will remember every step of the way, when we are sore and tired and feel like it is too much, how our loved ones, friends, neighbours and ourselves battle mental health issues every single day.

‘‘Walking side by side as a team of women supporting each other through the journey. Individually we can do a little, but together we can do a lot.’’

Local businesses have been giving generously, with Doggos Doggy Day Care having already donated an impressive £250 and £62.50 gift aid, in addition to generously sponsoring the team T-shirts for the walk.

Other businesses who have gotten behind the great cause include Barry’s Vets, Belfast Bow Company, Gordon’s Chemists as well as individual friends and supporters of the charity, including lovely board member, friend and supporter Rosemary Beasley who recently presented Via Wings with a cheque from her birthday fundraiser.

Rosie raised funds in lieu of birthday gifts and in memory of her twin brother BJ Hogg for Via Wings & Lyric Theatre Belfast.

Last year, a new report by mental health charity Samaritans revealed that suicide rates for men and women are higher in Northern Ireland than other UK nations and the Republic of Ireland.

Men and women are almost twice as likely to commit suicide here compared to those in England, with the highest rate among men aged 25 to 29 and women aged 40 to 49.

Tragically, the effects of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown and restrictions are feared to have led to an increase in mental health problems, particularly in younger people and even children.

Via Wings supports people in the local community in a practical, non-judgemental way.

They have an ‘any situation through the door’ policy when it comes to helping people, but the main issues we tackle are related to: poverty and living on the bread line; social isolation; mental health and emergency situations.

Businesses and locals are urged to get on board and support the Via Wings Miles4Minds challenge.

Readers can do this by donating to the Just Giving page at: justgiving.com/campaign/miles4minds. To take part in the challenge, contact Via Wings.