*Denis Bates. Photograph: Joe Buckley
‘Unexpected but delighted’ summarised how Denis Bates felt at being honoured for his voluntary work by Concern.
From Shannon, Denis was awarded with a silver medal at last year’s Concern Volunteer Awards for his involvement in the charity’s debating competition Concern Debates.
Denis is a volunteer judge for the national school debating competition in which hundreds of schools participate. Previously he was also a mentor for the debate team at CBS Sexton Street in Limerick City where he taught for many years.
His involvement with the charity goes all the way back 1975 when he worked alongside the Concern as a school principal in rural Kenya. He later got directly involved with the charity in 1985 when Concern Debates began in Ireland. He was among 32 people to be honoured at the ceremony including Dublin footballer and concern ambassador, Michael Darragh Macauley.
Denis says the award was “unexpected” but that it was a “delight to be recognised in that way”. When talking to The Clare Echo earlier this week he also expressed his admiration for the Concern Debates competition saying “Of all the debating forms for schools Concern was by far the best run and most supportive of students”
“I am delighted and honoured with this award,” he admitted. “The Concern Debates is an excellent forum for young debaters. Many students have taken part and along the way they have learned a lot about development issues around the world. It gives them the confidence and courage to speak out in public.”
Concern debates has been running for nearly 40 years as a way of teaching school aged children debate and public speaking skills as well educating them about issues in the world today. Concern was formed in 1968 as a part of a major humanitarian response to the Biafran famine in Nigeria. The Volunteer Awards are a newer addition to the charity started in 2013 to honour the work of its 1,700 volunteers.
Living in Tullyvarraga, Denis continues to be involved in Concern Debates even this year when the debates have been forced to go fully online. The competition is currently in its quarter final stage.