Londonderry students honoured for work with Down’s Syndrome, ChildLine and HURT

Hannah and Rachel.
Hannah and Rachel.

In recognition of the exemplary work they carry out in their local community, two Londonderry students have been honoured at the 2017 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards gala awards’ ceremony, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Dublin.

Hannah Lyons and Rachel McGowan were recognised by the only all-Ireland youth initiative of its kind.

The Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards programme recognises young people for their motivation, service and impact on their local community.

As 2017 finalists, Hannah and Rachel were selected for the honour from amongst hundreds of youth volunteers from across the island of Ireland and received €500 and a silver medallion, presented by Irish International rugby player Jordi Murphy.

Hannah, a sixth year student at Thornhill College, Derry, volunteers with ChildLine and Foyle Down Syndrome Trust. Inspired by her parents, who made huge sacrifices and fostered children when she was growing up, Hannah realised how privileged she was and wanted to become a more active member of the community. At the Foyle Down Syndrome Trust, Hannah supports young people with Down syndrome to reach their personal goals, encourage participation and ensure everyone has fun while also helping them make greater strides towards independence. Volunteering with ChildLine once a week, Hannah operates the switchboard and is the first point of contact for children in need. She wants to be able to counsel for ChildLine in the future as she believes it is such a necessary and important service.

Rachel, a sixth year student at St. Cecilia’s College, volunteers with a unique holistic drop in centre for young people who are affected by addiction called HURT (Have Your Tomorrows). Inspired when the founder of the group spoke at one of her school assemblies, Rachel was motivated to try and help her peers who were becoming involved in alcohol and drugs. She is now a qualified mentor and delivers talks to youth groups on the dangers of alcohol and drugs. She designed and produced a poster and DVD regarding foetal alcohol syndrome. Rachel is also a keen member of her school choir and wrote a single to raise funds for the HURT centre.

Jordi Murphy said, “I feel honoured to have met such dedicated and committed young people who give their free time to helping others in their communities. I hope these young people continue to inspire others like them to give back to their local community and further afield.”

The programme is run in partnership with The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI).