Animals and Environment

Lynn & Michael Christianson

Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, Limerick.

Lynn and Michael received autism assistance dog Chester for their son Ben 5 years ago. After seeing  first hand the amazing transformation that Chester brought to Ben and their family they were keen to give back to Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland to help support them in offering this opportunity to more children with autism and their families.

Beginning with fundraising events and moving to short term fostering, Lynn and Michael eventually took on Quinney who was not settling well into her new home. Lynn immediately wanted to help and asked ‘how much space and time is required to care for Quinney whilst she gives birth and for the first 8 weeks of the puppies lives’. Unperturbed by the prospect of giving half of their living space and committing to a 24hr watch of mammy and her pups they volunteered to take Quinney for whelping. For a family with 2 children with autism spectrum disorder and a busy house this was a huge commitment.

They have provided 5* care to 3 litters of puppies (total of 20 potential future Autism Assistance Dogs). They also have fostered numerous puppies in the training program. Typically they take puppies at 8 weeks of age for a few weeks whilst more permanent foresters are found and to allow Lynn to work her ‘house training magic’ on them. These puppies often need 24 hour care and observation. They have also gone above and beyond what is required taking time out of their day to do activities to develop and nurture the pups with Michael even building an obstacle course for them in the garden. In addition to this they attend bucket collections and fundraising events regularly and have supported the charity in raising thousands of vital funds.

Annie King

WWOOF Ireland, Cork.

Always a strong environmentalist, Annie King joined WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) over 20 years ago as a host, following a car accident induced brain injury which left her without the energy to manage her 4 acre smallholding alone. WWOOF is an educational exchange operating worldwide, which allows volunteers to arrange placements with host farms to learn about organic growing and sustainable lifestyles and assist their Hosts in the process. Annie was a former teacher and hosting in this way was second nature to her, but several years after the car accident she yet again experienced ill health with a mild stroke.

During her recovery process, Annie travelled to New Zealand to visit family, volunteered to WWOOF herself, and was inspired by WWOOF New Zealand to revitalise WWOOF in Ireland. This she did from her kitchen table and developed WWOOF Ireland into the thriving organisation and registered charity it is today. With WWOOF connections the other side of the world Annie has also been instrumental in forging international contacts and was a strong participant in the setting up the global support group for WWOOF – FoWO (the Federation of WWOOF Organisations).

As a WWOOF Host, Annie has learned and then taught skills to her WWOOFers (volunteers) from organic gardening, vegetarian cooking and land management and maintainence, through to building traditional stone walls and with recycled materials. She is renowned for her infectious positive and open attitude and manages to make WWOOFers from all over the world feel really at home here. Over the years, Annie has furthered the cause of environmental awareness and protection at grassroots level, with hundreds of young and not so young people from all walks of life developing a passion for looking after the world around them and living in harmony with nature, after an enjoyable and rewarding WWOOF Ireland experience with her at her smallholding.

Andy O’Dowd

Longford Tidy Towns, Longford.

For over 15 years, Andy has spent most mornings leading volunteers on a clean up of Longford Town and surrounds. Through Andy’s work, he has increased Longford’s rankings in the Tidy Town’s League every year. He has even liaised with Longford Town Council on improving the cleanliness and landscape of the town.

Andy leads by example coming out to clean up no matter if its hail, rain or shine. He has also made a special effort to make the group inclusive by encouraging and including volunteers from diverse backgrounds.

Andy has also been heavily involved in fundraising for Longford Tidy Towns. He is very successful in getting sponsorship for different events from local businesses. He has also been very successful in gaining co-operation from local businesses in doing their bit to make Longford better by painting their shopfronts and keeping it litter free.