Northern Ireland news

Neighbourhood News Drop: Pupils 'share the love' as they reach across generations

Pupils from St Dominic's Belfast who have been taking part in the Irish News Neighbourhood Drop campaign. They are Therese Clarke, Megan McShane, Emer Turley, Lucy Daly, Megan Connolly and Sneha Sibi. Photograph by Declan Roughan
Mairead Holland

Reaching out across the generations has been one of the heart-warming outcomes of this week's Neighbourhood News Drop campaign. Today, the focus is on young people as they 'share the love' with the elderly in their community, and the SDLP reiterate their commitment to tackling the scourge of loneliness, one of the biggest issues facing older people.

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PUPILS from several schools have been getting behind the paper's Neighbourhood News Drop campaign and supporting their older neighbours.

The young people have been volunteering in their local Spar shops to promote the initiative or dropping a free copy of the Irish News into an older person on their way home.

Some of the students are undertaking their Pope John Paul II Award, a programme that helps young people enhance their spiritual, physical, emotional and social development through volunteering in their schools, parishes and communities.

Anne Connolly, a teacher at St Dominic's in west Belfast, said the Year 13 pupils are "setting a great example for everyone to get involved".

She said: "They enrolled because they thought it was a really nice project helping to care for the elderly and vulnerable in society. A number said they thought it was just a good or nice thing to do.

"The scheme meant that even shyer students had the chance to pop in just to see if an elderly person is OK, while having the excuse of leaving in a free copy of the Irish News."

Kiera O'Neill of Living Youth NI, which has almost 400 young people taking part in the award every year across the Diocese of Down and Connor, said the uptake of the Neighbourhood News Drop initiative has been "great".

"We are delighted to have young people volunteering in Spar shops from Ballycastle to Kilkeel and lots of places in between," she said.

"Intergenerational relationships are crucial to our society and enriching for us all. Linking the Neighbourhood News Drop project with the Pope John Paul II Award is a fantastic way to bring generations together and a great way to share love, kindness and respect."

Meanwhile, at St James' Forum, also on the Falls Road, pupils from St Louise's Comprehensive College and Coláiste Feirste have been delivering gift bags to residents of Cullingtree Meadows, a supported housing development for people living with dementia.

The 12 girls, who all play football for St James' Swifts Girls Team, are also planning to held a coffee morning for local pensioners at the end of March.

Sixteen-year-old Tiarna Hunter, from St Louise's, said she wanted to play her part in helping the elderly "because they are lonely".

Community worker Damien Lindsay said he planned to get the young people involved in the Irish News Neighbourhood News Drop initiative by having them deliver papers to some of their elderly neighbours.

The girls are also using part of the £400 they raised recently to assemble and distribute packs for the homeless and will shortly be holding a sleep-out to raise awareness of the problem.

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