Sister Olive Cooney is Welcome's longest serving volunteer and has been with the charity since 2009.
A member of the Dominican Covent on the Falls Road, Sr Olive moved to Belfast in 1964 where she took up position as a home economics teacher at St Mary's College. She was former superior sister at Aquinas Hall at Queen's University, Belfast providing support and assistance for students in residence at the university and former chaplain at Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast offering friendship, counselling and consolation to patients of all denominations.
One of eight children born in Co Westmeath and brought up on a farm, Sr Olive followed a charitable life after her mother let a homeless man sleep in their barn for an evening and gave him porridge. Olive had no porridge that morning.
"I may have gone hungry for one morning, but it taught me a lesson for a lifetime. It was at that moment that I realised it was my duty to be charitable and to help others, just like my parents had always done. Mother taught me that the comforts we take for granted everyday are far more than many people can dream of and that giving to the needy is one of our most important duties in life."
Thank you for everything Sr Olive!
After retiring I joined as a volunteer in November 2017. When I had completed my induction and training I was placed with the Outreach Team. I soon realised the hardship and difficulties rough sleepers and others experienced. There is a very supportive network within the Welcome Organisation to ensure I had the support needed to help make that difference in each individual on the street but also that I had a sound board to share my emotional experience too if needed.
After nine months I moved to the Floating Support Team. I visit individuals in their home, that contact and a friendly face gives them some encouragement knowing they’re not on their own and that we care.
I really love being a volunteer. Workers and other volunteers are kind and compassionate but also assertive in supporting the service users. It makes you appreciate what you’ve got in life.
I started volunteering in the Drop-In as I have overcome my own difficulties in life when I was a young woman. Without the care and support I received from some outstanding people in my life I could have turned out very differently. I wanted to work with an organisation that supports people through their difficult times, I enjoy it because The Welcome Organisation allows me to feel like I am paying it forward for the support I was given when I needed it. I have gotten to meet so many incredible people.
I volunteer with the Organisation as I've gone through immense situations in my life. I feel I can use the hurdles I've overcome to assure others that they aren't not alone. I have got to know some incredible, decent, humble people. We don't choose our outcome in life, we can only try making it better for others.