BJD teen wins Irish Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year award
Annual awards were hosted by the Irish Red Cross
A Cavan teen has won a prestigious Irish Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year award for her desire to help others and be a positive influence and role model for other teenagers across Ireland.
Anti bullying campaigner Ruby O’Kelly (17) collected the Young Humanitarian award at the annual awards were hosted by the Irish Red Cross.
Ruby has travelled throughout Ireland to speak on the topic at schools and events, and hosted concerts for people with special needs and the elderly who were cut off from the community.
The local girl has also received the Cathaoirleach award from Cavan County Council, and in 2021 was named an Inspirational Hero in a national competition.
She was one of two Cavan people nominated for awards, alongside Shercock native Tom McEnaney who led a convoy of Tesla electric car owners in transporting almost 70 Ukrainians back to Ireland from a refugee centre in Poland.
Westmeath's Colm Smullen meanwhile won Irish Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year award for his work organising medical aid convoys to Ukraine and coordinating housing for refugees arriving in Ireland.
For more than a year, Colm has worked with his son Dara and colleagues Grace Kennedy, Joby Redmond, Anna Medards and Henry McEntee to provide assistance to Ukraine refugees fleeing the war.
Since March 2022, Colm has used his van to travel back and forth to Ukraine to deliver hundreds of thousands of euro in aid.
During that time, Colm and Grace purchased and arranged more than 6,500 flights to transport people to safety and also helped find homes for roughly 7,500 Ukrainian refugees in Ireland.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went Trinity College Professor Mary Lawlor, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and is a former executive director of Front Line Defenders.
Throughout her career she has been a tireless and fierce advocate for human rights defenders throughout the world.
The award is considered timely as the Irish Red Cross is concerned about the increasing trend of intolerance in Ireland and abroad, trend that is a challenge to a community who have for so for long prided themselves on a lack of prejudice against those coming into the country as a result of conflict or disaster.
Maria Delaney, Geela Garcia and Louise Lawless of Noteworthy.ie won the Journalism Excellence award for their work on an investigative series called Hands on Deck exposing the ongoing exploitation of migrant workers in the Irish fishing industry.
They undertook a six-month investigation in Ireland and the Philippines that had wide reaching effects, including being addressed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who said examples of abuse he had read about were “not far off modern day slavery”.
Other award winners included Revolut for their assistance given to fundraising during the Ukraine crisis and Waterford man Rajat Maheshwari for his innovation for giving and volunteerism.
Deirdre Garvey, secretary general for the Irish Red Cross, said: “The aim of the Irish Red Cross Awards is to highlight the incredible and selfless efforts of people throughout Ireland who have gone out of their way to help those in urgent need.
“Over the last year, if we have learned anything, we’ve learned that kindness still has a clear and profound place in the world. This kindness has been seen in the thousands of people, in cities and small villages across Ireland and beyond, who have reached out to support the Ukrainian community.
“At the start of the crisis, countless Irish citizens and businesses mobilised to offer support to Ukraine with food and medicine, some brought people back to safety Ireland, some opened their homes. Others reached out to offer language and skills training, or to simply offer a smile of support and put a heart at ease if only for a few minutes.
“This Kindness has also been seen in the public outpouring of support for Creeslough following the incident last October where ordinary members of the community worked shoulder to shoulder with first responders without a thought for their own safety.
“If you look closely, you’ll see this kindness in hundreds of acts of support for people everywhere – and it is on this that we must focus. These selfless acts of kindness are important, not just because they have real impact on the lives of people in need – these acts are important because they remind us all of the crucial role of community and love for one another.
“That is what these awards are here to do, to remind us all of our best selves, the best of Ireland. As the great actor Paul Newman, who founded Barretstown, once said, the need is great, and so too are the opportunities to make a difference.”
The annual Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards honoured nominated finalists in five categories in addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The awards recognise those who have had a positive impact on the lives of others by improving lives and reducing suffering.
The aim of the awards is to highlight the efforts of those who have given a voice to these humanitarian issues.