By Damian Dolan
Two Liverpool GAA clubs have joined forces with Irish community groups across the north west of England as part of an initiative to provide support for vulnerable Irish people during the coronavirus pandemic.
John Mitchel’s and Liverpool Wolfe Tones have given their backing to CARA – Irish Communities Together Through Covid-19 Programme – which aims to “support our communities to stay safe, well and connected through Covid-19”.
Their partners include the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, Brian Boru Club, Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, Irish Community Care (Merseyside), Irish Community Care Manchester, Liverpool Irish Centre, Liverpool Irish Festival, Mersey Harps and Shenanigans.
The programme’s aim is to help those members of its community “who may need a helping hand or a listening ear to get through the Covid-19 pandemic”. That could mean picking up groceries or a prescription.
We just wanted to let you know we are launching an important new programme named CARA to support our communities to stay safe, well and connected through Covid 19. @IrelandEmbGB @irishinbritain @https://www.facebook.com/424160357670075/videos/260566558447543
— Irish Community Care (@IrishCommCare) April 21, 2020
It will especially look to identify those who are elderly, in poor health; live alone or are far from family and friends.
Launched on April 17, the focus of CARA now is identifying those most in need of its help, and building a network of volunteers to help deliver its support services.
As part of CARA, John Mitchel’s have linked up with the Irish Community Care Merseyside team to form a dedicated coronavirus response service for the most vulnerable members of their local Irish community.
Heavily involved in the GAA club’s involvement is men’s chairperson Patrick Murphy, and ladies’ team PRO Shona McGonigle.
Both have lived in Liverpool for several years and “jumped at the chance of getting involved”.
“It’s a great opportunity to help people especially the most vulnerable people during these challenging times,” said McGonigle, who has used her PRO experience to help with the launch and promotion of the initiative, and getting volunteers involved.
“It’s important in order to support people who are vulnerable even if it’s the smallest of gestures.
“This will hopefully support them and relieve some of their stresses over this period of time even if it’s a simple phone call or to support with their shopping.
“The smallest of things can mean a lot to people. It’s important that the Irish living in the UK are able to support and connect with one another.”
She added: “Support for these people is so important as this can be a very stressful, scary or lonely time for them along with the difficulty of them being unable to access the community.”
McGonigle hopes that connections made through the CARA initiative will “support with future community events in Liverpool”.
McGonigle says the response from other John Mitchel’s members to getting involved in the programme has been extremely positive.
“Currently we have quite a few of our ladies team supporting this initiative along with our men’s team,” she said.
“Other members within our club are also involved – members who don’t particularly play, but may be coaches of the club, previous players or involved in any way within the club.
“Wolfe Tones, another GAA club within Liverpool, have also just recently agreed to getting involved, which is great.”
“We hope that our partnership will be strengthened through Covid-19, and that invaluable support and our mutual connections can be taken beyond Covid-19 to the benefit of our communities.”
CARA have already recruited more than 60 volunteers, who are helping to deliver practical support, such as getting shopping for those who are vulnerable and isolated. This week they hope to connect people to their telephone befriending service.
John Mitchel’s men’s and ladies teams both have members currently working for the NHS, and in addition to the club’s involvement with CARA, last Saturday the club’s members took part in a 300km run to raise money for the NHS and Ronald McDonald House Charities.
*Anyone who would like to register as a volunteer with CARA can do so by going to https://tinyurl.com/CARA-VAF .
*Or if you know anyone who might be in need of help go to https://tinyurl.com/CARA-SRForm or ring 0151 237 3987.