A BIG-hearted pupil at an Omagh grammar school has spoken of her delight at being named as one of the finalists in a competition that celebrates the best youth volunteers from across Ireland.
Lauren Gaynor, a sixth-year student at Loreto, has been involved in volunteering from a young age and has organised and participated in fundraising activities regularly, such as bag packing, baking and serving at coffee mornings.
The 17-year-old has been announced as one of 20 finalists at this year’s Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards. It is the only all-Ireland youth initiative of its kind that rewards post-primary students for exemplary acts of volunteerism.
Speaking to the Ulster Herald this week, Lauren said, “I’m extremely happy and proud to be one of the finalists. I feel grateful to be rewarded with this opportunity and I’m delighted to have got this far.”
Last summer, Lauren had the opportunity to visit Cambodia on a four-week expedition and took part in numerous projects such as designing concrete cylinders for the local drainage system, helping to build a dam which allows the locals to transport food over the river and planting banana trees for the poorest family in the local village.
She also donated some of her own money to buy the local people she was helping food and livestock, which was instrumental in creating an income for families.
Three years ago, the Loreto girl was chosen by her school to participate in an exchange programme to the USA and subsequently volunteered in a Washington soup kitchen. It was established to help feed and provide shelter for the homeless people in the city.
Both trips were an eye-opening and life-changing experience for the Tyrone teenager. She used them not only to fundraise but to raise awareness of the plight of those in need.
Each finalist has received 500 euro to donate to their preferred charity and are in the running to win a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Washington DC.
The ceremony for the final of the 2020 Spirit of Community Awards is being held at Titanic, Belfast on March 31. This year’s awards received 250 applications from across Ireland.