*Photograph: Arthur Ellis

Some of the county’s most inspirational youngsters were honoured at the sixth annual Clare Garda Youth Awards.

Carron’s Caithlin Griffin (17) and Afghanistan native Yaqoob Shinawari (17) who now lives in Lisdoonvarna both scooped individual awards. Robbie Crowe (19) from Lahinch claimed the special achievement award while the group winners were the Clare Youth Service Shannon Leadership Programme led by Elise Casey (17) from Shannon and Newmarket-on-Fergus’ Méabh O’Grady (16).

Organised by the Clare Garda Division district and sponsored by Shannon Group, the awards seek to identify inspirational young leaders in recognition of their voluntary community work and personal achievements. All award nominees and winners are aged between 14 and 19 years.

Both Elise and Méabh delivered a virtual summer camp in June 2020 during lockdown to young people who could not take part in in-person camps. They took on various training in creative digital media to film and edit instructional videos for children. Last year, they won a digital first responder award at Techfest for their efforts. They held a Zoom Christmas party for children with special needs and the following month created a home activity pack for over twenty children in Ennis and Shannon. In May and June of this year, they worked together to plan an In-Person Camp for seven to twelve year olds within all the Covid guidelines.

Robbie completed his Leaving Certificate this year at Ennistymon CBS. He has had many operations and attends hospital in Dublin every few months for some of his symptoms that go with the condition. This never hampered his ability to impact many with his character or love of football. He managed the first year Futsal team for two consecutive years and is a coach at Sporting Ennistymon. “Robbie shows other young people that everything is achievable, he promotes acceptance and doesn’t let his illness define him,” said Neville Fitzpatrick in his submission.

Over two years ago, Yaqoob arrived in Ireland with his older brother, at the start of lockdown he landed in Lisdoonvarna for the first time. According to Megan White of the King Thomond Hotel Direct Provision Centre, “Yaqoob has been an inspiration to so many teenagers” with an active involvement in sports including the creation of a small cricket game with other residents. He has learned English and assists other residents that struggle with the language. He has enrolled in secondary school and obtained a summer job.

Participating in the community has helped Caithlin to become a positive role model, she admitted. She is a strong member of both Clare Youth Action and Clare Comhairle na nOg. She has been active at both County Level and also part of the National Executive. She has been involved in projects making a difference in the areas of discrimination, environmental issues and promoting positive mental health.

“Since their inception the awards have highlighted some inspirational young Clare people who have displayed selflessness, volunteerism and a generosity of spirit. This year’s award winners are no exception. All are inspirational leaders who have not only gone over and above to support their local communities but served as an inspiration for others to follow,” CEO of Shannon Group, Mary Considine commented.

Individuality and community spirit was to the fore among the winners, Superintendent John Ryan maintained. “There are a lot of pressures on young people today, not least the pressure from social media, and to conform and to be popular. Initiating these awards was done to give them a break from that by providing an outlet to encourage them to get involved in offline rather than online life more”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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