Muriel Perry Finn Valley Centre Community Hero for August 2016
Muriel Perry Magheracorran, Convoy is the Finn Valley Centre Community Hero for the month of August.
Originally Muriel Davis from Cloghroe, Drumkeen, Muriel was brought up on a farm, one of a family of
nine with four sisters and four brothers. She began her working life in Coleraine as a bookkeeper but met her husband to be, William Perry closer to home. The couple married in Stranorlar Presbyterian Church on 1st June 1966 and set up home in the locality. They had two of a family, their son, Glenn and their daughter Ruth who sadly passed away in 2008. Glenn is married to Denise and lives in Wales and they have three children, Ella, George and Niamh.
Muriel’s first involvement in community came about when her daughter Ruth became ill with Multiple Sclerosis in 1992. She became involved with the Donegal Branch of Multiple Sclerosis and the Donegal Carers Association and through this involvement her life changed from the business world which she was involved in at the time, to the community world where she became a very active community member.
Prior to this Muriel had set up the first computerised bookkeeping business, Flite Business Services which was based in Letterkenny. The business provided services for a large area and gave employment to six employees catering to the business world offering a word processing service, and accounts processing and tax returns for many self-employed people and businesses. She also provided a telephone answering service for Guinness Sales and night classes for manual, beginner and advanced bookkeeping, word processing and computerised bookkeeping. Muriel and her staff also taught these classes which were in big demand particularly with the onset of computerisation and business computerised accounting systems.
After her daughter, Ruth’s condition began to deteriorate Muriel passed on the business to two of her employees and it is still trading to the present day such was the manner in which it was set up originally and the professionalism of her staff. Two years after the onset of Ruth’s illness Muriel became a full time carer and this led in turn to Muriel’s increased involvement in community work and volunteering which she received many awards for over the years.
Muriel’s increased involvement at this time led to her becoming chairperson and treasurer at different stages in the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Donegal Branch and she took an active part in Multiple Sclerosis awareness which she continues to this day. She also speaks at many conferences as well as talking to students, creating awareness and using her experience of Multiple Sclerosis to educate people about this condition in the North West which has the highest rate of Multiple Sclerosis in the World.
Muriel also became a director of the Donegal Carers a role which she continues to the present day and helps out with all fundraising events and collections on a regular basis.
During her years as a carer she became a director and treasurer of the Dergfinn Partnership Ltd and continued in this role for 10 years until the project eventually closed due to lack of funding. This project was supported by the Peace and Reconciliation Fund and was a busy time for Muriel as in her role as treasurer for the project she was required to report to funders, and attend many meetings, both at a management level and as chief financial officer.
Combining her community efforts with that of a full time carer required a very strong work ethic, something that Muriel wasn’t short of. The Mission Statement of the Dergfinn Partnership was primarily to highlight the role of carers and address the sense of social exclusion that was an integral part of many peoples lives in the community who often became isolated through their circumstances. The Partnership also provided advice and support on a cross border basis to a lot of vulnerable people due to their geographical location who were on the periphery in each jurisdiction. The committee of the Partnership was also created on a cross border basis and included directors of Derg Valley care, Castlederg who worked collectively to improve the quality of life for carers on both sides. As a representative of the Dergfinn Partnership, Muriel spoke at many cross border conferences and community events and took part in many group development projects aimed at creating lasting cross border links resulting in her being presented with an award which was presented by Paul Clarke of UTV in Belfast. When the project eventually closed it left a lasting impression in the local community with the
Twin Towns Friday Club which was formed through a sub project of the Dergfinn Partnership. This social club for the elderly filled a need in the community and continues to build connections to other senior clubs throughout the area growing both its attendees and volunteer base and has recently celebrated its tenth year in existence.
Muriel was always busy and throughout this time she was heavily involved with the promotion of Multiple Sclerosis awareness which she considers a very important part of her work, particularly with the North West ranking the highest in the world. She knows the value of raising awareness in fundraising as a means of helping those people and families living with the condition as well as contributing to research into a possible cure.
Many people can live a normal life with MS however Muriel’s daughter Ruth who was diagnosed at 22 was unfortunate, and her illness progressed rapidly resulting in her death in March 2008 at the age of 37. After being a carer for many years, Muriel found herself with a lot of time on her hands and being a busy person she set her talents to the continuation of her community work broadening her involvement as a means to help others. Over the years she had a good experience with health professionals both on a local and national level and she volunteered to become a member of the Patients Forum Committee at Letterkenny General Hospital where she felt she could give something back to the hospital who gave her so much support over the time of Ruth’s illness. She now represents the people of the community on the patient forum which aims to improve services for the community and in this capacity she regularly meets with hospital management and nursing staff. This has led to her selection as a representative for Letterkenny University Hospital on the Group Patient Council for Saolta University Health Care Group which includes Letterkenny and Sligo University hospitals. Through this Muriel speaks to students at LYIT about her experiences with Multiple Sclerosis and her role as a carer. She also speaks to incoming junior doctors emphasising the importance of Communication between Patient and Doctor. As part of the Patient Forum at Letterkenny University Hospital, Muriel also serves on various committees namely the End of Life Committee, The Waiting List Committee and the Endoscopy Committee and attends meetings all over Ireland in relation to these.
Giving back to her community has become the cornerstone of Muriel’s approach to life and with this in mind she was an office bearer with Raphoe Royal and Prior Past Pupils Association for many years which was the school she herself and Ruth attended.
Muriel’s faith has always been very important to her and has brought her through her very difficult times. She is involved in the day to day running of her church and on the committee as treasurer. She also involves herself in the Church’s mission work reaching out to the less fortunate through groups such as the Friendship Club and in true Muriel fashion she is also a member of the steering group for the club. She also helped set up the Church Bowling Club leading to members of the congregation having opportunities for meetings and relaxation.
It’s very evident that Muriel is an active person and one would wonder where she gets time to have hobbies. Muriel likes nothing better than sunbathing. She has been an avid traveller with family members and friends visiting many countries in the world and enjoying the sunshine. She now leads Friendship Groups on holidays and enjoys walking and swimming and also plays Kurling, Bowls and Boccia in the winter season.
Her Church work also involves visiting the elderly and the sick and she serves on a visiting committee for the
Church which is assigned hospitals to visit as part of their outreach work. She still finds time to eat out with her family and friends and enjoys entertaining as well as going on holidays. Muriel’s talents are numerous and her love of the theatre has transpired into treading the boards as part of a few local charity productions. Over the years she has always supported and helped her husband William in his business ventures as well as providing support for family members. Herself and William recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with their family in Wales.
When asked what her proudest achievement is, Muriel quickly replies that she had fulfilled her ambition in the business world and was very happy there however she feels that her community work has and continues be something that she is extremely proud of. She states that she enjoys taking part in community work and believes that these are the gifts that God has given her to use and has blessed her with good health and energy to fulfil her ambitions and continue helping others.
Muriel’s future plans are to continue trusting in God and meeting people and enjoying their company and she states clearly that she has no intention of stopping her community work in the near future.
In this interview Muriel stated that her life changed when she became involved in community work. Having been a successful business woman brought her fulfilment but community work became, and still is her passion. The word “passion” is very appropriate in the case of Muriel Perry, as it is very clear that in her every word and deed, she is a completely selfless person who receives joy from giving back and using her talents for the good of others. It’s worth noting that being a volunteer is just that, and Muriel has never received a salary for any community work she has taken part in. She, like all those involved in community give of their time freely and for the benefit of others. The definition of the word “voluntary” is “one who offers to do something without being asked or ordered”. The only reward for this type of work is the satisfaction of seeing a job well done and the knowledge that someone who needed help, received it. There seems to be no end to what Muriel has done and continues to do for her community, she sets the bar very high for the rest of us. Circumstances may not allow us all to attain Muriel’s standard but at the very least we can aspire to do more, in light of what she has achieved by turning her own difficulties into positives. There’s a lesson there for us all!