Volunteer Ireland
Connecting Communities Through Volunteering

Children and Youth Awardees 2020

We are so proud to announce this years winners in the Children and Youth Category. This year we are celebrating three outstanding volunteers in each category.

Read each of their inspiring stories below.

Billy Browne, Aontas Ógra Youth Club, Kildare

Billy Browne has facilitated and organised youth club nights in Aontas Ógra Athy, week in week out, for over 60 years. He puts so much of his time into organising a safe and enjoyable space for our members to socialise, to develop and to grow.

Through facilitating a member-led committee he empowers members to take responsibility and make decisions which provides them with invaluable skills that they will use long into the future as well as making life-long friendships. Everything that he does is done with the benefit of the members in mind.

The club recently ran a GoFundMe and many past members spoke so fondly of their time in the club and their appreciation of the time that Billy Browne put in to keep Aontas Ógra going. It is testament to his hard work that members from even forty years ago still look back on their time in the club as the best time of their lives and have such an appreciation of the man that made that possible.

Karen Byrne, Children in Hospital Ireland, Dublin

Karen is a volunteer group leader with Children in Hospital Ireland. Karen manages and participates in the Saturday morning volunteer group at Crumlin Children’s Hospital. The charity provides opportunity for children to play while in hospital.

Karen opens play rooms encouraging children to mix by playing games, doing artwork and chatting. The hope is children will find a friend, get a break from the medical staff and talk, and parents can have a well earned rest/coffee/shower without the requirement for a nurse to be called to sit with the child.

For tiny babies Karen sits/plays/distracts to allow parents have a break or chats with the parents who sometimes just need a listening ear. For children in isolation Karen enters with isolation toys that can be left with the child.

She is so positive, friendly and warm that the children in her care are visibly moved after an hour or two of her games/art/general messing! She’s a joy to be around and lights up the play room even with the most shy, vulnerable or sick children encouraging all to play despite sometimes fear or reservations at the beginning of her shift. She assists parents, nurses, fellow volunteers and all hospital staff with the same enthusiasm and inspires fellow volunteers on her team with her positivity.

Sandra McIntyre, Foróige, Cavan

Sandra is Club Leader (the main adult volunteer) in Templeport Foróige and Templeport Senior Foróige club County Cavan – youth development clubs for boys and girls aged 13 to 17. She is also a national programme facilitator and is chairperson of Foróige’s District Council in County Cavan.

Sandra is hugely dedicated to the development of young people, their inclusion in decisions that affect them and their dignity and potential. In her local Foróige club in Templeport County Cavan, she has demonstrated this by taking every opportunity to upskill herself, create more opportunities for the young people of her area and draw in grant money to develop a Foróige TechSpace.

As chairperson of Foróige, Sandra passionately drove an agenda of inclusivity, diversity and participation. Through all her volunteering she has championed the voice of young people, including getting the organisation to add pages to its website specifically for young people and acting as a facilitator at residential weekend meetings of an elected group of over 60 young people called the “Reference Panel” who act as a national voice for young people in Foróige.

Sandra’s impact is large and significant. The most important impact is on individual young people she works with. Over the past 15 years she has involved over 225 young people in her clubs and facilitated over 300 young people through Foróige’s “Leadership for Life” programme. She radiates belief in each young person through her eye contact, smile and encouraging words. She listens, encourages, has a laugh, challenges, suggests, praises, draws out their talents and celebrates every achievement with them. She opens new worlds of community involvement and potential future careers.