Several rugby clubs across Ulster have been participating in volunteering activities since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the focus turns to Ballynahinch RFC who have been delivering food parcels, donating refreshments to emergency services and fund-raising for mental health services.
The club’s Chair and PR Officer, James Kirk commented, “We pride ourselves on our rural community roots and have a massive catchment area which takes in most of South Down. It was only natural for us to use our resources to help people in the area where possible. We also wanted to help our own older members who were shielding by contacting them for a chat to help improve their well-being.
“Most rugby clubs are facing financial uncertainty during this time, and while we still need to address it, volunteering has been a good way to distract ourselves from these concerns by helping others.
“A lot of the club’s committee members are more senior in age and so we as a club didn’t want to put them at risk by having them out and about. So, the committee co-ordinated our volunteer work and our players and younger members put it all into action by making food parcel deliveries and donating refreshments.
“Ballynahinch RFC was approached by the Newry, Mourne and Down district council who asked if the club could help with their food parcel deliveries, and we’ve been working really well in partnership with them for the last 12 weeks or so. Our playing group delivers to the Slieve Croob District Electoral Area which is very rural with many of the vulnerable residents living in isolated areas far from any neighbours.
“The council has the details of those who are in most need of help and so are able to better target residents than we would if we worked on our own. We have had help on a number of projects with Newry, Mourne and Down district council; they have been vital to our recent pitch and floodlight upgrades and we’d like to keep that relationship going. The service has been going really well and it appears that it will continue through the summer even as restrictions are lifted.
“There was a lot of stock in the clubhouse that was of no use to us during lockdown so we donated all of our refreshments to nursing homes and local PSNI. Our first team manager had lots of game day energy drinks that we gave to the NI Fire and Rescue service. Some of our own members are involved with the local emergency services so it’s a very worthwhile link to maintain.
“Ballynahinch is unfortunately a black spot for youth mental health issues and suicide. After this pandemic, there is likely to be even more pressure on mental health services. One of our members works for Extern in their Ballynahinch office and there is also a vital counselling service in the town, so we decided to design and sell a mental health heroes jersey in conjunction with our kit suppliers, BLK, and donate all the proceeds to both Extern and Ballynahinch Counselling Service. We don’t expect them to receive huge donations as a result, but we feel it’s important to help their cause and raise their profile in whatever way we can.
Please see link below for details!
— Ballynahinch RFC (@HinchRFC) June 15, 2020
“I’ve just received a letter from the Newry, Mourne and Down district council about how pleased they are with our food parcel delivery service. They mentioned that some of the lads have spent time chatting with the residents at a safe distance when making their drop-offs which has been fantastic. To the residents, the sight of someone with a smiling face and a bit of chit-chat are almost as important as the parcel itself.
“Sports clubs are often asking for financial help through sponsorship and funding, so we really should be doing something in return. Team sport in itself is hugely worthwhile for young people but we as a community club need to get out and help our local population too.”
If clubs wish to get involved, please check with your local council to find out what help is required in your area.