Three Galway volunteers to be honoured at national awards ceremony tomorrow night

Noranne McMahon and Carolyn Sheils pictured at the Ocean Fitness 10th Birthday celebrations. Photo Martina Regan

Noranne McMahon and Carolyn Sheils pictured at the Ocean Fitness 10th Birthday celebrations. Photo Martina Regan

Three Galway volunteers have been shortlisted for a prestigious annual national volunteer competition which celebrates the hard work and dedication of volunteers throughout the country.

This year’s shortlist for the 12th annual Volunteer Ireland awards are aged 10 to 80 years and come from 16 counties. Local volunteers Patricia Keane, Robin Winkels, and Marian Merrick are among the shortlist.

Patricia Keane has volunteered for more than 40 years in the Letterfrack community. She was a member of the Board of Management of Letterfrack NS where she was one of the founder members of the Parents’ Council. She set up and ran a badminton club for national school children and then went on to found and run a youth club called Ellis Hall Drop-in Centre for teenagers and younger children.

In the 1990s she with her friend Mary Coyne, organised a sponsored swim in aid of Childline. This is now known as Watersports Day and takes place on Glassilaun Beach, Renvyle. The event has grown from strength to strength and has raised in the region of €70,000 for charities working with children - Childline in the early years and now CARI (Children at Risk Ireland ).

Robin Winkels knew that Dragon Boat Racing helped the recovery of breast cancer survivors but unfortunatley the River Corrib is not suitable for such boats. She came up with the idea of rowing in tour boats and now five years later she coaches a group of 15 women. Coaching twice a week, she has not missed a day in five years, even arranging someone to cover for her when she is away. She has not just created an exercise group but a welcoming cancer support group. She has also arranged yoga lessons and Alexander Technique lessons, as well as regular guest rowing coaches.

Marian Merrick has been to the forefront of asylum seeker and refugee support in Galway for almost 20 years. She first got involved in the late 90s with a small group who painted over racist graffiti in Galway city.

From there, she went on to become a founder member of the Galway Refugee Support Group, volunteering in all aspects of the service, including board membership. For the past four years she has been volunteering with Saint Vincent de Paul’s Croi na Gaillimhe resource centre.

She leads a team supporting people with preparation for asylum seeker interviews and appeals. She volunteers about 20 hours a week doing case work and country of origin research. This is intensive work, often requiring long hours doing an individual timeline, outlining people’s reasons for leaving their country and examining why they cannot return home.

Galway Volunteer Centre manager Donncha Foley congratulated the local nominees for the volunteer awards. “Each year I am blown away by the breadth and diversity of volunteering across Ireland. So many people go above and beyond because they care and they want to make a difference. These awards are a chance not just to say thank you to these extraordinary people but also to share their stories and shine a light on the extraordinary work that goes on in communities like those in Galway every day.”

This year the Volunteer Ireland Awards partnered with the Department of Rural and Community Development and Healthy Ireland, which both share an ethos of volunteering, contributing to healthy, vibrant communities.

Minister Seán Canney, Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, said he was delighted that, through his department, the Government “actively encourages and supports” the valuable contribution volunteers make in society.

“Without their selfless contribution of time and energy, much of what we take for granted in terms of our society, would not happen. Volunteers make a significant impact across many areas of society, including raising awareness of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Without active volunteers, communities cannot flourish.”

The 12th Volunteer Ireland Awards take place tomorrow night (Friday ) at the Carlton Hotel, Blanchardstown.


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