82 year-old Raymond Brady from Finaghy was recently awarded the ‘Best of Belfast’ accolade by the Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon, recognising him for his services to the community. Raymond, a long-standing volunteer with leading local charity, St Vincent de Paul (SVP), also won the Marie Mathews Participation Award at the prestigious Age-Friendly Belfast Older Volunteer Awards, hosted by Belfast City Council.
A grandfather of two, Raymond was delighted to receive the award but sees his work as an ordinary way of life. He explained: “I am thoroughly honoured that the Lord Mayor has chosen me as a ‘Best of Belfast’ recipient. I feel that it is simply my duty to help my fellow man, no questions asked - my parents and grandparents were the same so that way of life was passed on to me and it just seems normal! St Vincent de Paul is a great charity that allows me to do what I feel is right - it is like a big family where those in need can seek solace and support at any time about any issue.”
Ray volunteers his services at every level of the charity and is celebrating a big milestone year with the organisation - 35 years as a formal volunteer with St Vincent de Paul as well as 10 years as a SVP Board member.
He added: “I began casually volunteering with SVP at the tender age of 18 and formally became a member of the St. Anne’s group in 1979. More than 35 years later, I am still part of that branch and continue to work on the ground carrying out home visits to assess how best we could help families and individuals experiencing poverty and social exclusion in the local community. This varies from organising financial and material assistance for those struggling with essential everyday living costs, to providing friendship, moral support and a listening ear to those who need it.
“I have also been a Board member for the last 10 years and during all of that time I have held the position of Treasurer, helping to ensure that funds are distributed to where they are needed most. This enables our 1600 volunteers across Northern Ireland to help the thousands of people they do every week. The charity is fully funded by donations but a key part of my role is to investigate additional ways of funding for our larger capital projects, such as Claire Lodge, SVP’s holiday home in Newcastle, Co. Down which we are currently re-building.
“Through my volunteering I am all too aware of the prevalence of loneliness in my community and I am committed to combating it. Clare Lodge will be a vital facility which will allow those on their own, particularly older members of our society, to have a welcome break away and meet new people.”
Pauline Brown, regional manager for SVP NI explained: “Raymond is a true gentleman and without a second thought always puts others first. If people ever ask, what does Raymond do as a volunteer, I would be quicker telling them what he doesn’t do!
“Over his time he would have helped thousands of people through extremely distressing situations such as living in extreme poverty, coping with family issues and break-ups, helping people with serious addictions to get the right help, as well as providing support to those who are lonely, vulnerable and isolated. He guides new members when they join the Society, inspiring a new generation of volunteers. This is very important as our volunteers are our lifeblood. It is because of them that we can carry out important work throughout so many communities.”
Pauline concluded: “As the services that SVP provides to the community are completely confidential, we will never be able to disclose the full extent that Raymond’s years of service have had on members of the community but he has undoubtedly changed many people’s lives for the better. We are delighted that such a caring, highly-respected figure, who continues to work tirelessly for SVP NI, has been recognised by the Lord Mayor.”
Belfast Lord Mayor, Cllr Nichola Mallon, said: “I was delighted to welcome Raymond Brady and his wife into my parlour to present him with my ‘Best of Belfast’ award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to volunteering. Raymond began volunteering for the St Vincent De Paul as a teenager and at the age of 82 he shows no sign of stopping. His continuous care and compassion for some of the most vulnerable people and families in Belfast is a shining example to everyone in this city.”
Raymond is still as committed as ever to volunteering his time and resources to help those less fortunate. He added: “I have absolutely no intention of stopping my work with St Vincent de Paul and will always be on hand to help anyone out, anytime, 365 days a year!”
To find out more about how to volunteer with St Vincent de Paul NI, please call 02890 351561 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.