Newcastle West and Ballycastle students were named top youth volunteers by Ireland’s Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards in March.
Two of Ireland’s top youth volunteers of the year – Emily Duffy, 17, of Newcastle West, Co. Limerick and Lucia Quinney Mee, 17, of Ballycastle, Co. Antrim – were honored May 7 at a gala awards ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History during the 22nd annual presentation of the U.S. Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Emily and Lucia were presented with special commemorative trophies by Prudential Financial CEO John Strangfeld during the evening event, which is held each May to present awards to America’s top two youth volunteers from each state. The honorees were also personally congratulated for their outstanding volunteer service by Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps.
Emily and Lucia were named top youth volunteers by Ireland’s Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards program in March. They received awards including an all-expense-paid trip to this week’s special recognition events in Washington, D.C.
Emily, a sixth-year student at Desmond College, volunteers with the charity Mendicity and developed the Duffily bag designed to protect homeless people that is now manufactured by service users of the charity.
Emily was initially moved by the high rate of homelessness in her community, which she learned about through her school, and was motivated by the struggles faced by homeless people daily. She began volunteering with Mendicity, a charity that employs homeless men and enables them to start a new life. Working closely with the service users, Emily ensured that her invention met their needs and requirements and also developed a production process with them to ensure efficient production. Emily spent countless hours on the final design and production of the Duffily Bag that now protects homeless people from the harsh conditions they experience living on the streets. She also undertook a significant fundraising campaign to allow for the distribution of the bags, and together with a mentor has also had the bags delivered to refugee camps in France in Calais and Dunkirk.
Lucia, a sixth-year student at Cross and Passion College, had her first liver transplant at the age of eight. Following two additional transplants, Lucia is extremely passionate about the incredible gift of organ donation, and in 2015 set up the campaign “Live Loudly Donate Proudly.”
Lucia believes that education is key and strives to get organ donation onto the national school curriculum to encourage young people to have educated conversations with family and friends regarding their decision about organ donation. A keen swimmer, Lucia has also competed in the British and World Transplant Games which highlights that the gift of life allows people not only to live, but to thrive. Having just been selected for the 2017 World Transplant Games in Malaga, she wants to make organ donation the norm rather than the exception with ordinary conversations leading to extraordinary gifts.
“These honorees have done exemplary work to contribute to the health and vitality of their communities, and we look forward to seeing the great things they achieve in the future,” said John Strangfeld, chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc. “Congratulations to each of these extraordinary young volunteers.”
Also attending the event were top honorees from Prudential Spirit of Community Awards programs in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, China and Brazil.
During their trip to Washington, D.C., Emily and Lucia also joined the other international honorees and the American honorees to share volunteering experiences and perspectives, and toured the major sights and landmarks of America’s capital. This morning, they visited a Washington, D.C. elementary school to deliver donated books for their schoolchildren and libraries.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards were created by Prudential in 1995 to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models. The awards program was introduced in Japan in 1997, in South Korea in 1999, in Taiwan in 2000, in Ireland in 2006, in India in 2010, in China in 2013, and in Brazil in 2015.