A Derry man, who was recognised in the New Year’s Honours list for his volunteering services with NSPCC Northern Ireland, has urged other people to offer up their time for the charity.
Hugh Kennedy, who is from the city’s Waterside, has been a volunteer with the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service since 2001 and was the first volunteer recruited in the Foyle area after the Young Witness Service was established as a pilot in 1999.
Since then Hugh has supported hundreds of young witnesses and their families during this time.
The Young Witness Service is unique to Northern Ireland and provides support for hundreds of children and young people under the age of 18 who have to go through the often-traumatic process of giving evidence in court.
Hugh (75) has just been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year’s Honours List for services to the community and young people.
The former fireman is now urging people in the north west and beyond to consider volunteering with the leading children’s charity.
He said: “I am really chuffed about the New Year’s Honour and so is my family. We have been getting texts from so many people.
“Volunteering for the Young Witness Service has been as a great of a help to me as it has been to the young people.
“There are so many young people in need and if I can help in any way that I can then I would take it as a privilege.”
He added: “I am so proud to volunteer with the NSPCC as it is an organisation whose staff are so committed and they are an inspiration to me.
“The time I’ve spent with the Young Witness Service has been very rewarding but also very sad at times. It is a relatively new scheme and it has really taken off big time in Foyle. The whole experience for children giving evidence in court is very traumatic.”
Paul Murtagh, team manager at the Young Witness Service, said: “We are absolutely thrilled for Hugh. This is fantastic recognition of the difference Hugh has made to the lives of children and families across Northern Ireland while volunteering with the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service.
“Hugh is one of our longest serving volunteers, having been with us from 2001. Hugh has immense positivity, energy and commitment, he has a fantastic way about him that can put people at ease even in the most challenging of circumstances. We feel great pride for Hugh, it is a massive privilege to have the support of Hugh and all our volunteers.
“We could not deliver the Young Witness Service without them. It is great to see this recognition for the support offered to children and families in the courts. Congratulations Hugh.”
For more information on volunteering for NSPCC Northern Ireland go to: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do/volunteering-nspcc-childline/