Jessica Collins from Skibbereen has been recognised as one of 20 exceptional young people from across Ireland, who have been chosen as some of the country’s most outstanding youth volunteers, working to make a positive impact on their local communities.
A Fourth-Year student at Skibbereen Community School, Jessica is a passionate animal lover and was given the opportunity to volunteer for five weeks in China at the Slaughterhouse Survivors, Harbin Animal Rescue, looking after ill and unwanted dogs and cats. As well as playing with the animals Jessica worked in grueling heat every day giving the dogs and cats water and their vaccines, shaving and bathing dogs that had matted hair, transporting dogs between rooms as well as power washing and cleaning the yard.
Over the course of her trip and as one of the youngest volunteers, Jessica became an integral part of the animal Rescue Centre even mentoring some of the new volunteers. Jessica overcame the daunting task of travelling to China on her own and following a visit to a dog shelter which housed thousands of abused dogs she was determined to come back to Ireland and raise awareness of the cruelty that these animals were facing. She has set up an animal cruelty project and overcoming her own mental health difficulties is working to promote this within her school. She will also travel back to China giving up her summer holiday in 2020 to work with the animals once again.
The top 20 local students were revealed as Pramerica announced its top 20 finalists for the 2020 Spirit of Community Awards, the only all-Ireland youth initiative of its kind that rewards post-primary students for their exemplary acts of volunteerism.
Passionate about a range of topics including homelessness, mental health, disabled rights, climate change, animal cruelty plus many more, the 20 finalists will gather for this year’s awards, which will take place at Titanic, Belfast on Tuesday, March 31. Carefully chosen by a judging panel, including people from charitable organisations, education and Pramerica, the lucky top 20 finalists will each be presented with €500 at the Awards ceremony. Not only that but the top two Junior Honourees will also receive an additional €500 for their chosen charity and two of the 20 students will be named All-Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year. These two students will each receive €1,000 for their chosen charity, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their school and an all-expenses paid trip to the United States in May to participate in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards ceremonies.
The programme, which is run in partnership with the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) and the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI), is one of Ireland’s largest youth recognition programmes, this year’s awards received a remarkable 250 applications from across Ireland.