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Two all-Ireland Youth Volunteers of the year named


LETTERKENNY – Robert Cosgrove, 17, of Tallaght, Dublin, and Christina

Wylie, 18, of Newry, Co. Down, were named All Ireland Youth Volunteers of

the Year last night at a ceremony in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, to mark the

third annual

Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards.

The 2009 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards


James Carroll

Ruain in Killenaule volunteers at P.A.W.S., a centre with 32 dogs, James is

kept busy taking them for walks, feeding them and cleaning out the kennels.

He is also involved in rescuing dogs who are involved in accidents or who are


, 15, of Killenaule, in Tipperary, a third year student at Scoil

Julie Comyn

Secondary School, in Mallow works as a humanitarian aid worker with the

Belarussian Orphanage Project. After becoming aware of the Belarussian

Orphanage Project Julie went for interview and has now been to Belarus three

times and has raised over €8,000.

, 18, of Ballyellis in Mallow, a sixth year student at St. Mary's

Sean Duffy,

College, in Cork, was struck by the poverty in the third world Africa following a

family trip, Sean was determined to return as a volunteer to improve the lives

of those less fortunate but also to broaden his own perspectives on life. The

Lesotho Project fulfilled both of these objectives so Sean got involved. His

volunteering was divided into planning, fundraising and two trips to Lesotho.

16, of Skibbereen, a fifth year student at Schull Community

Hannah Frister

in Tipperary volunteers with people with mental and physical disabilities. She

spent 10 weeks last summer away from home and lived in Camphill

Duffcarraig, a residential home for adults with special needs. Hannah worked

six days a week from early morning to late at night. For two and a half

months Hannah immersed herself in the needs of others. She helped the

residents get dressed, prepared their meals, and undertook various activities

in daily workshops.

, 17, of Kilkenny, a fifth year student at Scoil Ruain, Killenaule,

Jonathan Guckian

volunteers at Nazareth House Care Home for the elderly and at Altnagelvin

Hospital. Jonathan’s awareness of the value of volunteerism to society is

evident in his desire to give something back to those less fortunate than him.

Jonathan works closely with patients on the Neurological Ward at Altnagelvin

Hospital, carries out administrative duties, acts as a porter and help’s run

children’s parties at the children’s ward. He has also been asked to mentor

other volunteers at the hospital, evidence of his commitment to volunteerism.

, 18, a senior student at Lumen Christi College, Derry

Louise Hegarty

and Prior Comprehensive School in Raphoe was selected for the honour

because of her dedication to teaching people to play the bagpipes. Despite

being only 15 Louise teaches 10 people each week in her local Church Hall,

aged from seven to 27. Louise is also attending Magee College in Derry

where she is studying to get her teaching qualifications. As part of her

volunteering Louise has performed at various events including the St.

Patrick’s Day Parade, the Flight of the Earl commemoration and Special

Olympics. She has also played alongside the Chieftains.

, 15, of Bomany, Letterkenny, a fourth year student at Royal

Sarah Marie Keane,

Tiernan's College in Crossmolina established a gospel choir at her local

Church resulting in a dramatic increase in the numbers of people, both young

and old, attending Sunday mass. The fruits of this volunteerism were

exceptional and went far beyond Sarah Marie’s initial aim of attracting

more young people to Church. The gospel choir helped with issues of selfesteem

and also helped develop the musical skills of those involved. Sarah

Marie is now intending to put together a band that can fill in for the gospel

choir when they are not available.

18, of Castlehill in Ballina, a sixth year student at St.

Hannah Love

Bangor works with the elderly, she uses music and conversational therapy to

help enrich the lives of up to 40 elderly residents of a care home. She visited

the Sunnyside Nursing Home weekly and entertained residents by playing the

cello and piano.

She also actively engaged in conversation with the residents and formed

close relationships. The communication and the friendships formed between

Hannah and the residents also had an impact on them as they realised that

someone cared enough to listen to their stories of days gone by.

, 16, of Bangor, a year 12 student at Glenlola Collegiate in

Kate Lynch,

College in Swords undertook voluntary work at Hamilton Park Care Facility for

the elderly in Balbriggan. The centre specialises in Alzheimer’s care.. Despite

the challenges of working with people with an illness, Katie managed to

overcome these by showing her determination and interest to give to others.

In fact her biggest challenge was to convince the Director of the centre to take

on a 14-year old. She also volunteered at the local children’s summer project,

has recently undertaken a youth leadership course, is a member of the

Scout’s and she is doing a first aid course.

15, of Rathbeale, Co.Dublin, a third year student at Loreto

Jason Laverty

Stranorlar worked as a mentor to fellow students with physical disabilities and

helped them get to their class and also helps them at lunchtime. In this role

Jason has to put himself second and think about his friends’ needs before his

own. He has also become aware of access issues and ensures that those in

wheelchairs are helped out. As well as giving practical help to those students

with special needs, Jason has also become their friend.

, 14, of Lifford, a third year student at Finn Valley College in

Gary McHale

Castlebar helps his elderly neighbour who lives alone. Gary was prompted to

volunteering when he witnessed his elderly neighbour struggle with daily

chores and saw the loneliness he suffered. Every day he cooks his neighbour

his evening meal, puts on his fire, feeds his dog and secures the house before

he goes to bed. Apart from the practical side to his volunteering, Gary also

has become a friend to his neighbour. He takes time to talk to him and

reminisce about his own life.

, 16, of Castlebar, a fourth year student at Davitt College,

Kate Molyneaux

Secondary College, in Pallaskenry was heavily involvement in fundraising for

the Marie Keating Foundation and for communities in South Africa. Kate’s

inspiration for her charities comes from her own personal experiences. Kate’s

mother died from breast cancer when she was just nine years old and after

this loss she decided to fundraise for the Marie Keating foundation. Kate

persuaded 25 girls to take part in the Dublin mini-marathon as part of their

fundraising activities. She also organised 20 girls to take part in the Limerick

mini-marathon to raise funds for an orphanage in Johannesburg.

, 17, of Mungret, Limerick, a sixth year student at Salesian

Miriam Teehan

Community School, in Carlow works with adults with physical and mental

disabilities. She volunteers at her local Cheshire Home and went further when

she undertook to fundraise and recruit her friends to make a wish come true

for one of the residents. Miriam’s volunteering extends to other projects also.

She was involved in a Committee which raised €8,000 for the Patrician

Brothers’ Missions in Kenya, she volunteered on Daffodil Day to raise funds

for Cancer Research, sold Russian Dolls for the Chernobyl Children’s Project

and volunteered in summer camps for disadvantaged children.

, 18, of Coppenagh, Tullow a sixth year student at the Tullow

Robert and Christina were among 15 Finalists from the island of Ireland, who

were honoured at the event for outstanding volunteer service. Each of the

finalists received a personal award of €500 and an engraved silver medallion

presented by Dr. Jimmy Devins T.D., Minister for Science, Technology and


Speaking at the awards ceremony, Minister Devins described the Pramerica

Spirit of Community Awards as an excellent programme giving much-needed

recognition to youth volunteerism. “I want to congratulate Pramerica for their

innovation in spearheading the national awards programme. I also want to

pay tribute to Robert and Christina and to the other finalists who have shown

relentless dedication to acts of volunteerism both in their local communities

and abroad. I am deeply touched by the inspirational stories of volunteerism

during tonight’s event,” said Minister Devins.

According to Henry McGarvey, managing director, Pramerica Systems

Ireland, “This national awards ceremony recognises the inspiring volunteer

activities undertaken by young people in our communities. We’re always

amazed by the level of commitment demonstrated by volunteers like Christina

and Robert. Pramerica is a proud partner in this programme of recognition for

such inspiring and exemplary young people.

”Pramerica Systems Ireland sponsors the Pramerica Spirit of Community

programme in partnership with the National Association of Principals and

Deputy Principals (NAPD) and the General Teaching Council for Northern

Ireland (GTCNI). The programme was introduced three years ago to

encourage youth volunteerism throughout the island of Ireland and to identify

and reward young role models.

Robert, 17, a sixth year student at St. Aidan's Community School, in Tallaght

was selected for the honour because of his work in his local Youth Café,

which offers a retreat for young people dealing with a range of social issues.

Robert encourages teenagers to stay off the streets and away from drugs and

gangland violence. He says he usually helps the youth deal with difficulties

that involve bullying, self-harm and violence. He serves as a conduit between

parents and their children and helps them resolve their problems in

conjunction with professional counsellors. Having volunteered at the Café for

four years, Robert has become an important confidant to his peers.

Christina, 18, a year 14 student at Newry High School in Co. Down, was

selected for the honour for helping people with disabilities. She became

interested in volunteering six years ago when her cousin, who is disabled and

blind, came to live with her family, following the death of his parents.

Her cousin attends Newry Gateway Club and so Christina decided to get

involved. Christina is now a core part of the team and is involved in the STOP

programme. And through the Befriending Role whereby she visits an elderly

lady once a week.

Robert and Christina also received engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies

for their schools, and €1,000 for charities of their choice. They will also be

flown to Washington, D.C., in early May to take part in a gathering of top

youth volunteers from several other countries at the recognition events for the

Prudential Spirit of Community awards, sponsored by Prudential Financial,

Inc.* (PFI), the parent company of Pramerica Systems Ireland.

The selection committee that chose the two All-Ireland Youth Volunteers of

the Year included Pulitzer Peace Prize Laureate John Hume, Mary Davis,

Managing Director, EurAsia Special Olympics; Yvonne McKenna, CEO,

Volunteer Centres Ireland; Áine O’Neill, former President, NAPD; GTCNI

Chairperson Sally McKee; and Henry McGarvey of Pramerica.

“NAPD is delighted to be associated with the Spirit of Community

programme,” says NAPD President Ciaran McCormack. “NAPD is

consistently surprised by the variety and high standard of applications in the

Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards. The awards themselves offer an

invaluable platform for post-primary school students to showcase the range of

voluntary activities that they undertake. The programme is also unique in that

it brings together school leaders from across Ireland. The partnership

between NAPD and GTCNI led by Pramerica is very much welcomed."

Sally McKee, Chairperson of GTCNI, said “GTCNI is delighted to be

associated with this awards programme as it gives unrivalled recognition to

these fine young people, who give up so much of their spare time to

community activities. Many of these students undertake the work on their

own initiative. The standard of the applications this year was phenomenal

and a true reflection of the fantastic young people in our schools. Pramerica is

providing important recognition to young people and to their schools which is

welcomed by GTCNI."

Application forms for the awards programme were distributed last autumn

throughout all post-primary and second-level schools in both the Republic of

Ireland and Northern Ireland. 15 finalists were selected in February, based on

criteria such as personal initiative, creativity, effort, impact and personal

growth. The finalists were all presented with Certificates of Achievement at

their schools by officials of Pramerica, NAPD and GTCNI over the past month,

and received further recognition at last night’s dinner.


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