A VOLUNTARY charity that carries out ‘vital life-saving work’ has been gifted one of the cars used to transport Pope Francis during his visit to Ireland.
Derry-based Foyle Search and Rescue was set up in 1993 by local people in response to the high number of drownings in the River Foyle, one of the coldest and fastest flowing rivers in Europe.
The service now includes suicide prevention and supporting families in the city.
The charity’s chairman, Stephen Twells, said he was speechless when he heard the news.
Meanwhile Archbishop Eamon Martin, who recommended the charity, said the donation will help the group saves lives.
“I was speechless when I heard the good news,” said Mr Twells.
“Foyle Search volunteers are very honoured and most appreciative to be the recipients of this very kind gift.
“Pope Francis’ car will provide a morale boost to our volunteers at this time, during what has been a very tough year for all of us in the city.
“I also know that this gift will be a great comfort to many families here in Derry knowing that we have been recognised by the Holy Father, and by Archbishop Martin, for the work that we do.”
The charity’s volunteers patrol the river on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 9.30pm until 3am, identified as peak times of need.
They engage with people in distress, maintained lifebelts and ultimately save lives.
Archbishop Martin explained how the car would assist the charity’s work.
“This Skoda Rapid will be of great practical help to the volunteers of Foyle Search and Rescue as they undertake their brave and vital life-saving work,” he said.
“From my time as a priest ministering in Derry, I know well at first-hand how the local Foyle Search and Rescue volunteers work selflessly, and of their own free time, each week to help those who are vulnerable and in need.”
He added: “In addition, Foyle Search and Rescue facilitates the North West Bereaved by Suicide Support Group which assists families and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide.
“May God continue to bless these local heroes in their work.”