By Una Murphy, VIEWdigital co-founder
I VOLUNTEER with the Media Trust, a London-based charity, and that is part of the reason why VIEW magazine was set up.
I joined the Media Trust because I felt that, at times, there can be a ‘disconnect’ within the mainstream media and the people doing brilliant work on the ground to make their communities better.
Over the years people like Joyce McCartan have inspired me; she famously gave an old tea pot to former US Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (then First Lady) when she came to visit Joyce’s community café on the Ormeau Road in 1995. Joyce had lost her youngest son Gary and other relatives during the Troubles and in turn channelled her grief into peace and reconciliation work.
Looking back over the archives, I am one of several journalists who have had the opportunity to write about volunteering in Northern Ireland. Martin O’Hagan, the only journalist killed in the Troubles wrote a book about volunteering ‘Stories From The Edge’, which is illustrated with lovely black and white photographs by Kelvin Boyes. Martin was a trade union activist, journalist and writer who spent 12 months completing the book and the final chapter was finished the day before he was shot dead in his home town of Lurgan, Co Armagh, in September 2001.
The Volunteer Development Agency in the forward stated: “We are immensely proud to have worked with Martin and are indebted to him for his time and commitment. Without him this book would never have been published.” Martin volunteered his time after a call was put out to the National Union of Journalists to find ‘volunteer journalists’ to write stories about volunteers for ‘Stories From The Edge’. He said in the foreward to the book: “As secretary of the local union branch I felt someone had to come forward. The difficulty was – no one did and so I got the job by default.”
The feeling that “someone had to come forward” is also reflected by journalist Fionnuala O’Connor, who wrote in ‘Volunteer Voices – Belfast’s Creative Extremists’ in 2012 that: “The Troubles brought volunteering – in the sense of working without payment, with and for your neighbours at their behest – into the front line.
She added “Mending the damage of the Troubles may need fresh activists for a new era.” I’m delighted to say that Jerome Dawson who is featured in ‘Stories From The Edge’ is also in VIEW editor Brian Pelan’s article on page six about the volunteers who founded Ballyhackamore Credit Union in east Belfast and the founders, including my father, Tom Murphy.
We would like to thank our guest editor, Volunteer Now Chief Executive Wendy Osborne and the VSB Foundation for all its support for this issue.
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