Wednesday last was certainly a momentous day in the history of The Aisling Centre as it celebrated 30 years of service to the local community by officially receiving the coveted Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

The Aisling Centre learned last year it was to be awarded the highest honour for voluntary effort for an organisation and hence it was fitting that the occasion of their 30th anniversary was marked by the formal presentation of the award by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of County Fermanagh, The Viscount Brookeborough KG.

In making the presentation Viscount Brookeborough commended the remarkable foresight of the Sisters of Mercy in opening the Aisling Centre and the remarkable work that has been done from the Centre.

“We, as a community, have a lot to thank them (the Sisters) for”, he said, highlighting the importance of mental health particularly in the world of Covid-19.

Viscount Brookeborough addressed the volunteers directly, saying: “You will never know how many potentials suicides you have averted. Aisling Centre has shown people another side of life, giving them something to live for."

He concluded by telling the volunteers that what they do was amazing. “You should feel very proud and your families should feel very proud of you."

The award was accepted on behalf of the volunteers by chairperson Alison Annan, admin volunteer Bronagh Reilly and volunteer fundraiser Florence Eames.

Newly appointed chairperson Alison said she felt "privileged and honoured" to accept this award alongside Bronagh and Florence on behalf of Aisling’s many volunteers.

“The nature of volunteering is one of passion, reliability and commitment and we have all of that and more in our Aisling volunteers, all of whom hold dear the ethos and mission of Aisling”.

Alison went on to pay tribute to Fermanagh Talking Newspaper and Enniskillen Boat Club who have also been successfully nominated for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and thanked Michael McCaughey and Iain Kennedy for their attendance at the Aisling Centre’s presentation event.

Like everything that happens in Aisling Centre winning the award was a team effort and Alison thanked all who had a part in the process with a particular mention of the clients and others who had written such moving letters of support. She also thanked Viscount Brookeborough and the Lieutenancy team for their support of the nomination.

Aisling Centre was nominated for the award by Maureen McKeever, who described Aisling Centre as a "safe and inclusive space for all" describing the work of the Centre as "inspirational". She said: “I am absolutely delighted that the nomination has been successful and thank the volunteers for sharing their time and their skills for the good of everyone in the community."

The volunteers expressed huge delight at ‘winning’ the award. All enjoyed their work in Aisling Centre and described it as a ‘privilege’. “Volunteering is a two-way process; there is a feel good factor”, explained Margaret Corrigan. “Everyone that comes through the door gets help. It is nice to be a part of that”, added Bronagh Reilly.

Vice-chairperson Roberta Hamilton who joined the ceremony via zoom said: “We are honoured to have received this prestigious award. It pays tribute to and recognises all the outstanding work and commitment of our volunteers over many years. It also highlights the work of the Aisling Centre which benefits our local community and offers vital support to anyone who needs it."

Sr. Edel Bannon, founding member and recently conferred with a lifetime honorary membership of Aisling Centre also attended the presentation via zoom. “I have been privileged to be involved with the Centre since its beginnings 30 years ago. It is truly magnificent to have received this award, a great boost to everyone at this time. I am so proud of all associated with Aisling Centre, a truly wonderful accolade as we celebrate our 30th anniversary year”.

Providing some background to the Queen’s Award Joanna McVey, Deputy Lieutenant explained that the bar for winning this award was very high: "It is only given to exceptional groups of volunteers who work for the benefit of others," before noting that only 41 per cent of 2020 nominations for the award had been successful and congratulated Aisling Centre volunteers on their well-deserved success.

Also attending the event were Vice Lord Lieutenant Charles Plunket who read the winning Citation and Deputy Lieutenants Melanie Little and Dr John Graham who had been assessors for the Award. John was also MC for the occasion, standing in for Walter Radar, NI Representative who was unable to attend.

Having sent his apologies Adrian Dunbar described himself as a "Proud Patron of Aisling Centre”, and sent a message of congratulations on winning the Queen’s Award, which he described as “further endorsement of all the fabulous work the Aisling Centre does. Congratulations to all the volunteers, well done everybody. Keep her lit”!

Aisling Centre offers a free and professional counselling and child play therapy service from its centre in Enniskillen. During this time of the global pandemic counselling services are also available via telephone/zoom etc. For further information contact the Centre on 028 66 325811 or visit our website