31 December 2021

"It's been a privilege to play my part," says Belfast charity worker awarded MBE

Norman McKinley, Executive Director of UK Operations at the British Red Cross, has been awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire Medal (MBE) in the New Year Honours List 2022 for his work with the charity.

Norman, 59, from East Belfast, joined the Red Cross in 1997, and has clocked up nearly 25 years of service, most recently supporting the organisation through the Covid 19 pandemic.

“I was working in London when my wife called me to say a letter had arrived about an MBE. I thought she was joking,” he says.

“When it eventually sank in, I couldn’t believe that someone had been so thoughtful and kind to nominate me. But I don’t feel that this award is just for me. This is for the thousands of volunteers across the country that have worked tirelessly during the pandemic.”

Reflecting on his early days with the Red Cross, Norman remembers:

“The Omagh bomb was my first experience of a major crisis. I was at my daughter’s birthday party at home in Belfast when the bomb went off. Still relatively new in role I wasn’t entirely sure what I would need to do, or how best to manage our response to such a traumatic event.

“I soon discovered that whatever I may have lacked by way of preparation or experience, we made up for with speed, agility, teamwork, and kindness. And that’s been my experience throughout so many different crises over the years.”

Norman’s MBE award is a timely send-off for the charity worker who retired from the Red Cross yesterday (December, 31).

“I’m proud to have been part of a story where ordinary people do extraordinary things together,” he says. “And not just during the recent pandemic.

"From the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the 2005 London bombings, the Manchester Arena Bombing, the Grenfell Tower disaster, and the global pandemic – the Red Cross is a unique and enduring force for good, able to mobilise people from all walks of life to be active humanitarians and provide vital emergency help where it’s needed most. It’s been a privilege to play my part.”

Over the past year, the British Red Cross has helped more than 1.1 million people feel less isolated, cope with financial hardship and manage their mental health and wellbeing.

Over 1,400 Red Cross volunteers supported vaccination programmes which helped over 1.4 million people get vaccinated, and 7,878 households were supported by over £4.3 million distributed through the charity’s hardship fund.

British Red Cross Chief Executive Mike Adamson is delighted that Norman is getting recognition for his work during this difficult time:

“Norman’s outstanding and inspirational leadership, particularly during the Covid-19 response, made an exceptional contribution to the relief of people impacted by the pandemic.

"It was due to his hard work and quick actions that we were able to set up a Hardship Fund giving direct financial assistance to those in greatest need.

"He is a shining example of the exemplary staff and volunteers we are lucky to have to support the vital work of the Red Cross. We are profoundly fortunate to have him in the team. He is a true ambassador for the Red Cross, and we are delighted to see him honoured in this way.

“I would like to pass on my congratulations on this well-deserved honour and thank Norman for his decades of dedication and passion for helping to make a difference.”

On retirement, Norman plans to continue his volunteering work as a driver with a local food bank in Belfast and with the Independent Monitoring Board, as well as spending some much deserved time off with his grandchildren.

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