Volunteer Ireland
Connecting Communities Through Volunteering

Owodunni Mustapha Named Christine Buckley Volunteer of the Year 2019

Owodunni, known as Ola, is an asylum seeker living in the Old Convent – Direct Provision Centre in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, for more than five years. Educated in Political Science in Nigeria but prohibited to engage in employment, she committed to give her skills, passion, potential and energy to volunteer for her fellow asylum seekers living in the Direct Provision Centre in Ballyhaunis.

In the last two years, Ola started to build herself up as a community leader by taking care and standing up for the issues and needs of other fellow residents. Her voice, resilience, leadership skills, passion for inclusion brought to life several projects and initiatives for people in the centre. Some of these initiatives include coffee mornings, Christmas voucher appeals, doantion drives, social trips and skills programmes – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Thanks to her passion for the life of the Centre’s community, Ola has succeeded in setting up a Residents Committee in the Centre. This is a very hard task to mobilise people living in the diverse environment of Direct Provision to take on leadership roles. After several attempts she succeeded to bring together a group of women who took inspiration from Ola’s commitment, drive and passion. Since setting up, the committee members are actively involved in planning and bringing to life the inclusion and integration projects and initiatives. For example they organised a fantastic Intercultural Day in Ballyhaunis in July this year.

Ola has become a passionate and prominent voice of her fellow residents. She has spoken widely on the injustices of Direct Provision system, issues asylum seekers experience in Ireland and their willingness to integrate and contribute to local life. She also write poetry and recently contributed to the Irish anthology project that will be launched in November and wrote a contribution for MASI’s journal.


Volunteer Ireland Awards Shortlist and Winners 2019

Animals & Environment

  • Lynn & Michael Christianson, Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland, Limerick *WINNER*
  • Annie King, WWOOF Ireland, Cork
  • Andy O’Dowd, Longford Tidy Towns, Longford

Read their stories…

Arts, Culture & Media

  • Orla Brannigan, Comhaltas Drogheda, Louth
  • Aaron Duffy, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, Louth
  • John Paul Payne, Carlow Pride Festival, Carlow *WINNER*

Read their stories…

Campaigning & Awareness Raising

  • Liz Collins, DEBRA Ireland, Dublin
  • Lexie Delaney, Inner City Helping Homeless and North Dublin Bay Housing Crisis Community, Dublin
  • John Fox, Pieta House and Tallaght Athletics Club, Dublin *WINNER*

Read their stories…


  • Patricia Keane, Various Organisations, Galway *WINNER*
  • Eddie Phelan, Various Organisations, Louth
  • Ken Smollen, Ken Smollen Food Appeal, Offaly

Read their stories…

Children & Youth

  • Sandra Maguire, Coder Dojo, Dublin *WINNER*
  • Patrick Mills, Solas Project Justice Team, Dublin
  • Mick Whelan, Foróige, Tipperary

Read their stories…

Health & Disability

  • Eric Beggs, Fighting Blindness, Louth *WINNER*
  • Gertrude Howley, GROW in Ireland, Waterford
  • Robin Winkels, Row to Recovery, Galway

Read their stories…

Safety & Emergency Services

  • Padraig Allen, St John Ambulance, Dublin
  • Frank Heidtke, Dingle Coast Guard, Kerry
  • James Lafferty, Irish Red Cross, Clare *WINNER*

Read their stories…

Social Work & Social Inclusion

  • Liz Davey, Inner City Helping Homeless, Belfast and Dublin
  • Marian Merrick, Croí na Gaillimhe, Galway *WINNER*
  • Owodunni Mustapha, Social Inclusion and Supports to Asylum Seekers, Mayo

Read their stories…

Sports & Recreation

  • Aideen Dowling, Special Olympics Leinster, Kildare
  • Martin Quinn, Canon Hayes Recreation Centre, Tipperary
  • Azeez Yusuff, Sport Against Racism Ireland, Dublin *WINNER*

Read their stories…

Volunteer Manager

  • Andy Cullen, Husky Rescue Ireland, Laois *WINNER*
  • Gerry Maguire, Reserve Defence Forces, Laois
  • Nicola Sandgrove Coss, All Abilities, Laois

Read their stories…

Outstanding Group

  • Dún na Sí Amenity and Heritage Park, Wesmeath
  • Irish Red Cross – Tralee Branch, Kerry *WINNER*
  • Victim Support At Court, Dublin

Read their stories…


Previous Years Shortlist & Wnners

Volunteer of The Year 2018 – Mary FitzGerald from Clare Haven Services


View all 2018 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2017 – Sister Patrica Wall


View all 2017 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2016 – David McEvoy from Birr First Responders


View all 2016 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2015 – Matt Cullen from Swords Tidy Towns


View all 2015 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2014 – Jim Kavanagh from Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International


View all 2014 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2013 – Declan & Darryl Barry from Waterford Marine Search & Rescue


View all 2013 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2012 – Jacqueline McAuley from VSO Ireland


View all 2012 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2011 – Conor Malone and Conor Kavanagh


View all 2011 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2010 – Anna Hughes from Farranree Youth Club


View all 2010 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2009 – Christine Buckley from Aislinn Education and Support Centre


View all 2009 Awards


Volunteer of The Year 2008 – Marie Carroll from Bayside Gymnastics


View all 2008 Awards