Selfless Marie earns BEM.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Selfless Marie earns BEM. thumbnail MARIE Rafferty with her BEM Award for 29 years of voluntary work.

MARIE Rafferty got the shock of a lifetime in May when news came in the post announcing that she was to be awarded the prestigious British Empire Medal (BEM).

The Newry woman was garlanded with the gong in recognition of her selfless charity work throughout the past 30 years and her outstanding contribution to the wider Newry community with various charitable organisations and projects; be it the community work she undertakes with the visually impaired or her continued tireless efforts for Macmillan Newry.

The "wee woman from Newry" described her astonishment at finding out through a phone-call from her husband, Francis, saying: "I couldn't believe it, I'm absolutely thrilled but was apprehensive at the same time because I would be in the background.

"I was with one of my daughters in Belfast that day and I phoned my husband to remind him to pick up the grandchildren from school and he said that there was an important letter for me.

"He said that it was very official and, in my head, I thought it was jury service- that's all I could think it was. I told him to open it and when he did I just went to pieces then - I'll not tell you what I said!" laughed Marie.

"I've worked with the Visually Impaired (VIP Club) in Newry for 29 years. They meet up once a month in Drumalane House and they go out for meals every couple months, depending on funding, and I make them their tea and sandwiches and things like that," said Marie.

Marie, who was fundamental in establishing City Strikers Ten-Pin Bowling Club after Ireland hosted the Special Olympics back in 2004, said that she received her nomination from a parent of one of the children with whom she worked with.

"It was a mum from the Special Olympics that nominated me for the award. My husband, my sister and I were involved in starting up the Special Olympics in Newry 13 years ago, when it came to Ireland. We volunteered there then we started up the club - City Strikers Ten-Pin Bowling - just after that."

When commenting on what her charitable work means to her, Marie was effusive in praising her family for their support through the years, and said: "It's very important to me, but I have to say that I couldn't do it without the support of my husband and four daughters."

Marie spoke of her pride at receiving the award at a ceremony in Hillsborough Castle, and said: "The ceremony was in Hillsborough Castle, and it was very relaxed, they were lovely people, then I get to go the Garden Party in Buckingham Palace in may or June time. I'm looking forward to it and the whole family's going, the children, their partners and the grandchildren.

"I'd like to thank my sister Dympna for all her help and encouragement throughout the years, plus and she really helped back-up the mummy from the Special Olympics," added Marie.


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