Rural Housing Association’s Tenant Panel Members Recognised as Frontline Heroes.

Rural Housing Association’s tenant Claire McKeefry has been announced as winner of NIFHA’s Housing Hero Award 2020 in the tenant category for her role as a frontline worker during COVID-19. Maureen Flaherty, a Castlewellan Tenant Panel member, has also been shortlisted as a finalist in this year’s Housing Heroes Awards. The awards recognise the vital role Housing Associations and their tenants have played in supporting communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both ladies from Castlewellan were actively engaged in a variety of volunteer roles prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, including their role as tenant representatives on Rural Housing Association’s Tenant Panel.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged Maureen and Claire’s passion for their local community and their commitment to supporting the most vulnerable in their area, helped them overcome any barriers presented by lockdown measures, to continue their role supporting local families in Castlewelllan.

Claire continued to work as a Classroom Assistant in a local hub school, which was set up specifically to support keyworkers and their children throughout the COVID-19 lockdown. She took on this role recognising the risks involved but put the needs of local keyworkers and their children first, in an effort to support those families struggling to manage childcare whilst working on the frontline. Her energy and commitment to this role has been evident throughout the pandemic, as she has worked to support children in their education, whilst their parents were engaged in the fight against COVID-19

When asked about her role as a frontline worker during COVID-19 Claire commented “my work environment and routine have changed dramatically since Covid19 measures have been implemented. I practice social distancing at the hub school while carrying out my Classroom Assistant duties. This has led to new experiences when creating a familiar and consistent learning environment for our young people. I find it very rewarding to give back to the community in the best way I can.”

Martina Cranny, RHA’s Housing & Operations Manager, responsible for the co-ordination of the organisation’s tenant panels praised Claire for her commitment to her community during the pandemic “Claire works tirelessly in her local community, supporting those who need someone to lean on in this difficult time. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has created a number of challenges for our Association, and we are privileged to have Claire involved in our Tenant Participation work helping us to advise our tenants on the issues arising from the restrictions in place.
Maureen also shares this proactive approach to supporting those her in local community who are most vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 lockdown measures. Her community spirit and passion for helping others has proved invaluable to the local community of Castlewellan since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maureen works in a local charity shop, where she had been volunteering for 14 years, but since its closure due to Coronavirus she has focused on her role as a volunteer for the Home Start project. In this capacity she has been supporting young mothers who are vulnerable, isolated or in need of support through regular telephone calls, providing a much-needed point of contact during lockdown.

Sharon Robinson Home Start organiser shared the importance of Maureen’s role. “Maureen has been a valued member of the Home Start volunteer team for the past 15 years, her approachable and caring nature has helped encourage lots of families in the community to improve family life and engage fully with Home Start. Maureen has been an extended member for families with little to no support and a grandmother to many children who were isolated, befriending mum and dad and becoming an inspiration through her love and kindness of what a good relationship can look like. Maureen is well known for her understanding and nonjudgmental attitude by adapting to suit to family’s needs to alleviate their problems bringing a good balance to their homes. Maureen’s beautiful smile and zest for live continues to help families in the community enjoy their children, remaining friends with whoever she meets with strong values.”

Martina Cranny, RHA Housing & Operations Manager also praised Maureen for her vital role as a RHA tenant panel member. “Maureen Flaherty is a very unique kind and generous person who makes such a difference in her local estate. Although Maureen has had personal loss in her life recently, she still manages to care for her neighbours and show endless empathy and compassion. Rural Housing Association are privileged to know Maureen and have her involved in our Tenant Participation work.”
Both ladies are a shining example of the difference local people can have in supporting rural communities during periods of crisis. Their unwavering commitment to addressing rural isolation and supporting the most vulnerable in their communities has been an asset to the local town of Castlewellan.