Volunteer Ireland
Connecting Communities Through Volunteering

Arts, Culture & Festival Shorlisted Nominees 2021


We are so proud to announce this years winners in the Arts, Culture & Festivals Category. This year we are celebrating three outstanding volunteers in each category.

Read each of their inspiring stories below.


Elena Sawczenko,

Tipperary Gold Star Project & HSE Disability Services,

Co. Tipperary

Elena has been volunteering for over ten years with the Tipperary Gold Star Project, among other local initiatives, and she shares her passion for art while utilising her life experiences as a deaf person to raise disability awareness. While studying Fine Art at Crawford Gallery with Cork IT, she continuously shared her skills with the community, offering her art work for exhibitions to raise funds for disability awareness projects local, while painting murals for Children’s Therapy Service Wards at Our Lady’s Hospital Cashel and at the Child Therapy Services in HSE Clonmel. 

Elena’s volunteering experiences are led by her love of culture, art and creativity. She regularly visits schools, teaching children with special needs how to use art as a communication tool, as well as providing sign language classes.  Elena collaborated with Tipperary Library when she worked on their ‘Growing Imaginations’ project, creating fifteen ‘Book in a Bag’ life story accounts of people with a range of abilities, ranging from visual and hearing impairments to learning disabilities. Last year, she volunteered to develop a deaf choir with 100 Transition Year students, teaching them to sign Lewis Capaldi’s hit single, ‘Someone You Loved.’ She is currently volunteering in a primary school to teach them the history of their village through the media of art and sign.


Uta  Almhain, Oriel Traditional Orchestra, Co. Louth

Uta has been volunteering with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra for five years. Upon engaging with the Orchestra, with her children as musicians, Uta demonstrated great organizational skills. It wasn’t long until she was elected secretary in 2019, and Orchestra members agree that Uta was integral in the organisation’s navigation of COVID-19. Public health measures meant that rehearsals had to move online, which understandably presented challenges. However, Uta engaged, encouraged, listened, investigated, trained, provided solutions and motivated members throughout those challenging times, never missing a meeting or rehearsal.  

Uta is committed to her role as secretary, keeping up to date with relevant training and ensuring that the Orchestra follows best-practice guidelines. Her innovation and determination see her continuously seek out ways to develop and grow the Oriel Traditional Orchestra.  

In addition to her administrative aptitude, Uta plays the cello in the Orchestra and has been a leader of lower strings. She regularly enlists in organizational workshops and shares her learning with others. Uta has had a major impact on the Orchestra’s operations, prioritising communication and inclusion while remaining a valued and involved member.  

 

 


Jennifer Sullivan and Robert McBurney, Living Well with Dementia Sweet Memories Choir, Co. Dublin 

Jennifer Sullivan and Robert McBurney volunteer with the Living Well with Dementia Sweet Memories Choir as part of the Living Well with Dementia Southside Partnership. The community-based programme aims to support people with dementia to continue to live at home and participate in their community. Robert and Jennifer volunteer with the choir every Saturday morning, offering their skills as musicians as they play violin and piano. 

Their commitment to attending each choir session is important to the members, as people with dementia value routine and know they can count on Jennifer and Robert to provide accompaniment each week. The duo strive to find songs that are meaningful to the choir, and their dedication is truly instrumental to this musical endeavor.  

When COVID-19 restrictions prevented in-person rehearsals, Jennifer and Robert pre-recorded over fifty songs for the Choral Director to share amongst members and facilitate Zoom sessions. Their passion for both the choir and positive impact of music steered the Living Well with Dementia Sweet Memories Choir through these challenging times.