Northern Ireland news

Tributes as Derry charity volunteer Rachel Downey dies suddenly

Rachel Downey, pictured front row on right, with fellow volunteers from Guide Dogs NI
Staff Reporter

TRIBUTES have been paid to a "pleasant, reliable and dedicated" charity volunteer from Derry who died suddenly at the weekend.

Rachel Downey, from the Waterside, passed away at Altnagelvin Hospital in the city on Sunday.

The 27-year-old was a fundraiser and volunteer co-ordinator with various charities, including the Royal National Institute of Blind Peope (RNIB) and Guide Dogs NI.

She also helped animal rescue charity the Rainbow Rehoming Centre, volunteering at the centre itself and working at fundraisers.

Lesley Macaulay from Guide Dogs NI described Ms Downey as a "very special and much loved young woman".

"She truly loved the charity and was passionate about making a difference for people living with sight loss," she said.

"She was the heart and soul of our Maiden City fundraising branch and her support and enthusiasm will be hugely missed. Our thoughts are with the Downey family at this desperately sad time."

David Galloway, director of RNIB Northern Ireland, said staff were "shocked and saddened" by her death.

"She had been a volunteer with our charity for over two years. She was a pleasant, reliable and dedicated sighted guide and was also an active member of our local Foyle fundraising group," she said.

"Tributes have been coming into our staff in the Derry/Londonderry office from members of the blind and partially sighted community, people whom Rachel assisted during her time with us.

"Rachel was a familiar face around the office. She was always willing to support our efforts in making every day better for everyone affected by sight loss.

"Members of the public have commented particularly on Rachel's direct involvement on our catering course at the North West Regional College. She helped out in every possible way to enable people with limited or no vision to get the most out of the experience.

"Rachel will be sadly missed by staff, volunteers and service users alike. RNIB Northern Ireland would like to extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends at this difficult time."

Tributes have also been posted on Ms Downey's Facebook page, with friends creating a picture slideshow to remember the former Lisneal College student.

The slideshow said: "Forever missed by all of us privileged enough to have your love and friendship. Sweet dreams Rachel."

Ms Downey is survived by her parents Grace and Reggie, brother David, sister Lynn and fiance Christopher Leighton.

Her funeral service will take place at Carlisle Road Presbyterian Church at 2pm on Thursday, with interment in Ballyoan Cemetery.

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