Winners of the West Cork Garda Youth Awards were announced at a ceremony held at the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery on November 8. The Awards are in association with SuperValu.
Chief Superintendent Con Cadogan, Divisional Officer for Cork West Division, paid tribute to the winners, saying that it was heartening to see so many young people involving themselves in activities within their local communities. He also stressed the importance of the spirit of volunteerism in general, and he commended the positive input created by those who give freely of their time, and that An Garda Siochana was delighted to be in a position to honour the Award winners. He also said that the Award winner’s dedication and commitment to their communities, be that local, national, or international was uplifting to witness.
A total of 16 Awards were presented. Garda Damian White, Community Garda at Bandon Garda Station, who is PRO for the event, highlighted that there was a very high standard of nominations received for the Awards this year. This reflects the contribution being made by young people across West Cork. Each of the nominees who didn’t win an Award will be recognised with a Certificate of Nomination, which will be presented to them by their local Superintendent.
The West Cork SuperValu stores, which have sponsored these Youth Awards for the past 24 years are Caulfield’s SuperValu Bandon, Smith’s SuperValu Kinsale, Healy’s SuperValu Dunmanway, O’Leary’s SuperValu Macroom, Boherbue Coop, Field’s SuperValu Skibbereen, Murphy’s SuperValu Castletownbere, O’Keeffe’s SuperValu Bantry, Scally’s SuperValu Clonakilty and O’Keeffe’s SuperValu Millstreet.
Sarah Fitzgerald, Kinsale
Since she was five-years-of-age, Sarah has written books, and sold them at the Christmas market. She has donated all the proceeds, in excess of €2,500, to Ronald McDonald House, where she has a special plaque with her name on it. Sarah recently presented a 10-point proposal to the government, titled Book Cloud, which would operate in a similar fashion to Food Cloud. Her mission is to encourage more children to read books, and she has established her own website www.sarahsbookproject.com. Sarah was a creative ambassador for Cruinniu na nÓg 2019, and an ambassador for Irish Book Week.
Katie O’Callaghan, Bandon
Katie has volunteered with the Jack and Friends Centre in Bandon for the past 18 months. This centre caters for children with intellectual difficulties, and with autism. She freely gives of her time every weekend to organise sporting activities for the children, and she also assists with running their wellbeing group. Katie has demonstrated her commitment to helping these children by taking a course in sign language, to enable her to communicate with children who are non-verbal. Katie has built trusted relationships with the children and their families, and she has helped create a greater awareness and understanding of autism in the community.
Sheena Sheehan, Macroom
When Sheena saw that help was required to improve the facilities at the Fairy Garden in Macroom, she took it upon herself to fundraise for a new garden shed for the Garden. Sheena organised a mini auction, and a raffle, and raised €7,500 in total. This surpassed all expectations and meant that additional recycled plastic seating was also provided. Sheena has also fundraised for Macroom Community Hospital, being involved in a card drive, two auctions, a car boot sale and a balloon release. When her Nana was a resident in the Hospital, Sheena gave hands-on assistance, and always helped the staff with her Nana’s care needs.
Edel Hayes, Rosscarbery
Edel is part of the Young Mercy Leaders programme, and she attended their four-day conference over the summer. She helped organise a coffee morning to fundraise in order to educate two students from Peru. Her enterprise ‘Edel’s Home Made Jams’ raised €1,000, which she donated to local autism and social services in Rosscarbery. Edel has volunteered with Irish Water Safety in Dunmanway, teaching water safety to younger children. Edel assists with coaching her local Under-6 and Under-8 Ladies Football Team. She has also given of her spare time to work with Coaction. The Coaction summer camp involves helping for three days a week over the month of July.
Andrew O’Connor, Goleen
Andrew has a great sense of community spirit and is involved in a variety of voluntary groups. He assists with the local Meals on Wheels group and seeks to combat rural isolation amongst the elderly. He visits them in their homes and provides much-needed social interaction. In Transition Year, Andrew was part of a group that undertook a landscaping project in the area. Andrew volunteers in the local Community Centre and helps in organising card nights and bingo. He has been a marshal at the local Show, sells tickets for the Community Lotto, and is always available to put his shoulder to the wheel when called upon.
Alicia O’Sullivan, Castlehaven
Alicia is a member of the student council in her school. She was selected as ‘Ireland’s Lions Club Young Ambassador’. She has developed a project titled ‘Generation Z’, an awareness initiative for parents concerning issues affecting the youth population. She is currently working with Healthy Ireland, seeking to develop these talks. Alicia was selected to sit on the National Executive of Comhairle na nÓg, a forum to enable young people to have a voice on issues that affect them. She recently attended a gathering in New York, focused on climate change and also spoke in City Hall at ‘The Ocean Wealth Summit’. The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is regarding her climate change concerns.
Michelle O’Donovan, Bandon
Michelle has been an active member of Bandon Athletics Club, and she has won numerous awards at different levels. She has won three All Ireland cross country medals with her team. She now assists with coaching younger athletes. Michelle assists with Club fundraising events and summer camps, and was given the Athletics Club President’s Award. She has fundraised for a local playschool, the Bumbleance appeal, and the pipe band. She has received her bronze Gaisce Award. Michelle volunteered to assist a group of Taiwanese teenagers who were learning English. For the past four years, Michelle has also participated in the Darkness Into Light event, in aid of Pieta House.
Siadbh Redmond, Ballydehob
Siadbh has been involved in fundraising for a number of charities, including the RNLI, The Irish Cancer Society and West Cork Autism Association raising in excess of €5000. Siadbh set a record for being the youngest person to swim from Cape Clear to Baltimore a distance of 9Km. In preparation she spent hours practising in Lough Hyne being coached by her father Stephen Redmond (record holder) and Noel Brown. This swim took 2.5 hours and Siadbh didn’t touch the observer boat, and she was only 15 at the time. Siabdh has won All Ireland Medals for playing the concertina, bodhran and cello and spends a lot of time helping young musicians in the local area.
Sophia Kate Leahy,
Sophia Kate has been involved in organising the annual Carol Service in Lisheens Church, in aid of the Simon Community. Over the past six years, in excess of €8,000 has been raised. Sophia Kate demonstrates her kind and mature personality when she cares for her younger brother, who has autism. Despite being told that he would never read, Sophia Kate has put in countless hours reading with him, so that her brother can now read – a fantastic achievement. Sophia Kate is involved in a variety of sporting clubs, and she has performed at the National Concert Hall with her school choir.
Fionn Crowley, Macroom
Fionn has recently completed a REC 3 First Aid course, which certifies him as a first responder, and in the use of a defibrillator. He’s an active member of his local Scout Group, and he has volunteered at the Lee Valley County Beaver Camp, where he ran activities for the younger beavers. He gives freely of his time to volunteer as a first aider at various activities and events. He’s a member of his school’s Student Council and, at his urging; fundraising is currently ongoing for a defibrillator for the school. Fionn has organised family board game days, with the proceeds going to the CUH Children’s Ward, and the Special Needs Unit of a local school.
This group saw the need to create a wild flower garden in Macroom. They felt it would provide a rich habitat and an oasis for bees and other pollinators, as well as offering a visually pleasing experience to the public. The wild flower garden has received many favourable comments, and has added greatly to the area. They also organised a bake sale, donating the proceeds to Macroom Tidy Towns, and to Fr. Keane, for the homeless. They have assisted with the Macroom Food Festival, and the switching on of the Christmas lights. The Foróige Macroom club members have also paid regular visits to residents at Macroom Community Hospital.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (two winners):
Ciarán Hoey, Innishannon
Ciarán was involved in a car crash last year. He was in an induced coma for a long period, and he had to overcome profound physical and psychological trauma. Ciarán requires intensive bouts of therapy at the National Rehabilitation Centre, yet he has kept up with his studies. He has demonstrated tenacity, diligence and humility in the face of adversity. Long-term challenges including therapy and absences from school have not stopped Ciarán from striving towards his goals. His school community has been inspired by his mental and physical strength. Ciarán’s positive attitude has shown that any obstacle, no matter how daunting, can be overcome.
Elton Sibanda, Millstreet
Elton had to leave his family and friends in Zimbabwe, and seek asylum in Ireland, due to war. He makes an enormous contribution to Youthreach, where he attends, and his dream is to attend Art College. Elton has created some beautiful artistic pieces, and he has liaised with Macroom Tidy Towns, so that it is planned some of this art will be on display in different areas in Macroom. Elton has a very positive manner, and doesn’t bear any bitterness regarding what life has thrown at him so far. All the staff and his fellow students feel enriched by his presence. He keeps giving, no matter what. He is a fitting example to us all.
COMMUNITY SAFETY AWARD:
Virtually Connected, Socially Disconnected, Castletownbere five members: Áine Spencer, Darragh O’Sullivan, Rose Power, Naomi O’Sullivan, Ben Sullivan.
This group of five students from Scoil Phobail Beara carried out research into the area of digital technology, and aims to educate people regarding proper, responsible use of it. They believe that we should live our lives with technology, and not through it! They carried out in excess of 1,500 surveys, as well as consulting with a psychologist who works with people suffering from technology addiction. They created an information pack for parents on digital technology, in which they outlined the dangers and health effects of over dependence on devices. They also provided management strategies for creating boundaries, and appropriate levels of usage. They won a Bronze Overall medal at the Young Social Innovators programme, and they are currently lobbying the government to put digital wellbeing on the health agenda. These students challenge all us all ‘Eyes Up! Phones Down!’
OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO YOUTH AWARD (two winners):
Nellie Cotter, Schull
A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions and the roots spring up and make new trees. A single tree that has inspired new growth and development amongst the youth in the West Cork area is Nellie Cotter. Her life’s work volunteering and managing the Little Way Charity Shop has diverged into many youth projects. Some of the projects she has undertaken include, developing educational gardens in local schools, providing display beehives, which were hand-painted and positioned by Nellie in the school gardens. Nellie also provided nest boxes, bird feeders, bee hotels and a complete set of educational identification guides associated with biodiversity to promote and educate on wildlife. Not alone that she sourced and purchased a 10kg bag of wildflower seeds she divided the seeds into over 1000 envelopes, which were spread throughout the west cork area via the youths in the community. Nellie arranged for a detailed farm safety educational event to take place in schools, and each school received a library set of farm safety books. Nellie ensured that each child starting school received a road safety pack, which included hi-visibility clothing and equipment. In the community college, Nellie organised a road safety presentation by the emergency services and during this each student received a mobile phone blocker wallet. Safety signage was also provided and located in the vicinity of the schools.
Gearóid Ó h-Éalaithe,
Cill na Martra
Gearóid is a native of Cill na Martra, and his dedication, commitment and community spirit knows no bounds. He has been involved in Cumann Peile Cill na Martra since he was 10-years-old. He is involved in coaching teams, especially underage teams for the past 30 years. These teams have ranged from under-8s to under-21s, and his focus has been on participation of players of all abilities. There have been numerous successes at all underage levels, at Muskerry level, Rebel Óg level, and County level. Gearóid is the Club Children’s Officer with responsibility to ensure that safety standards and child protection requirements are met, as well as coordinating fixtures. Múinteoir by profession, Gearóid has been Principal in Cill na Martra since 2002, maintaining school links to the community through sporting activity, cultural events, or promotion of the Irish language. He places a huge emphasis on Gaeilge as a Gaeltacht school, providing multiple opportunities for children to participate in Irish language events outside of school. He is a member of a committee to help promote further use of Gaeilge among young people in Gaeltacht Mhúscraί. Gearóid is a member of a voluntary committee that seeks to fund and maintain sporting facilities and cultural events in Cill na Martra. He is a member of the Parish Safety Committee. People in other parishes have commented that they are jealous, and would love to have someone similar to Gearóid in their own parish.