2012 Volunteer Ireland Awards, Health and Disability

Paul Fallon, On the Road Again

Annaghdown, Co. Galway

Paul Fallon is a returned emigrant, who found himself unemployed in Galway.  As a qualified personal trainer Paul identified that he could use his skills as volunteer with Cope Galway.  In addition to his voluntary role he recognized that people suffering from mental health issues, addiction & homelessness could benefit from a structured programme of running and walking as a means in building self-confidence, strength and self-esteem.

In 2011 Paul set up OTRA, which provides a Personal Development Programme for those suffering from homelessness and addiction or other mental health difficulties. Paul offers these groups a fitness-training programme that is custom-made to suit their needs and designed to increase self-esteem and improve mental health, empowering these individuals to take a greater control over their own lives.

Paul runs it currently as a volunteer and has established OTRA as a charity. Paul has shown tireless commitment and kindness to helping the individuals he works with. In December 2011, he left his family to run 1,000 miles around Ireland to raise awareness and much-needed funds for the program. Despite some disappointment with the reaction, he continued giving his time and energy on a daily basis to see his vision through. Through his work, he has encouraged the clients to set goals, and a team of six have signed up to take part in the Dublin City Marathon.

Despite all of the obstacles he has faced, Paul has not lost faith. He has seen those in his programme change their lives for the better. Some of them have gone back to school, have been helped on their path to recovery from the addiction such as having their first drug-free year in seven years, have reduced medication for diabetes, have quit smoking and have seen improvements in handling their depression.

“Paul aims to roll out the programme nationwide to any organization whose ethos embraces equality, respect and discipline…. All of this has been done with little or no financial support but massive amounts of self-belief, hard work and commitment, the true hallmark of a deserving volunteer.”

Photograph by Gail Fox.