Conor Keenan and Pat Quinn are Coordinators of the Older People’s Community Project based out of Ballybot House in Newry. They are part of a range of organisations and workers, all with a common goal – helping people.

Maureen Murnin, left, with Emma McLoughlin, Age NI and Conor Keenan, Good Morning and Good Day Good Carer services, Confederation of Community Groups.
Maureen Murnin, left, with Emma McLoughlin, Age NI and Conor Keenan, Good Morning and Good Day Good Carer services, Confederation of Community Groups.

As Conor explains "My three-year-old son, when he asks me ‘what do you do at work Daddy’, I say to him “I try to help people. Especially older people”. Keeping that simple mantra in my mind has been a good motivating tool, especially during the past 8 months or so. 

"In running our Good Morning Call Service, we have been able to serve the people of our district by providing them with conversation, chat and a friendly listening ear. Through the amazing and dedicated work of our volunteers, our two call services Good Morning – for isolated people in our district, and Good Day – for older carers across the Southern and South Eastern Trust areas, our role in the Covid Era, has been to listen, and make people feel like someone is hearing them."

One of the many organisations they work with is Age NI. Emma McLaughlin who works on the First Connect service, has been able to direct their services to many of those living alone, or isolated. 

‘Age NI's First Connect service offers dedicated emotional and practical support at difficult times in an individual’s life; situations which are often triggered by feeling the loss of independence or sudden unexpected changes in important relationships.

Conor continues "When we receive a referral, before Covid, we would visit the person in their own home, now that process takes place digitally. We undertake a holistic assessment to decide how best we can support them. We tailor our support for each individual’s needs. The person might be isolated, or might need help with washing and dressing. We make sure they have the full benefit and pension they’re entitled to. We’ll also look at any support they might need with transport, safety and security.

"We believe this approach will support older people to remain independent in their own homes and communities"

One of the people the project has helped to support jointly with Emma and Age NI was a lady called Mary Murnin from Cabra, near Hilltown. Sadly, Mary passed away in August of this year, and when her daughter Maureen got in touch to offer a kind donation, Conor suggested telling some of her story instead. 

Maureen has worked in the community sector for over 10 years and knows the value of this sector, working with Habitat for Humanity and NIACRO in the past. 

As Maureen explains “When Emma first met with us in Cabra in 2018, she suggested a number of different things to help Mum, one was the Good Morning Service. 

Initially she was apprehensive and thought she would not like to talk to a volunteer via phone. But gradually she built up a rapport with the volunteers and got to really enjoy getting the phone calls. Mum was in a wheelchair for 10 years, so she was not mobile within her home and therefore it was good that she could chat to the volunteers. 

Even though the family were around a lot especially at the weekends it was during the week that these additional services made a huge benefit to her, and to the family. She valued the calls even more, during the first Covid lockdown. 

Mum did get out of the house when she could, especially to family occasions and church. She was a wonderful person and everyone who met her said that she was kind, thoughtful and engaging.”

Co-ordinator Conor explains how they work to what the individual user needs "By looking back over the calls that were made to Mary, I could see that many deep and meaningful conversations were had. Some, were shorter, just a quick check-in. We like to work to what our users need, and not dictate to them. For us and the volunteers, each user we welcome to our service, is going to have a range of conversations with a variety of people that maybe they would not normally have the chance to. 

"Working with Age NI as well as other referral agencies, shows how the Community and Voluntary Sector can be a worthwhile support to the Health Service and Statutory bodies. Our funding from the Southern Health and Social Trust helps us perform this crucial role. 

"Having Maureen get in touch and tell some of her mother’s story, was a perfect example of the sector at its best. The common goal we all share – is helping people."

If you would like to avail of the First Connect Service or want any more info please contact Emma McLoughlin (Southern Trust First Connect Coordinator) on 07816230753 or or if you would like to volunteer for our service and support older people please contact Katie Johnston on or 028 9089 2642. 

Likewise, if you would to volunteer or find out more about the Good Morning or Good Day call services please contact Conor Keenan or Pat Quinn or give us a ring at 028 302 61022. 

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