Top honours for 10 youths

Cork campaigner Joanne O’Riordan is among 10 young people to win awards for their outstanding achievements in categories such as personal and cultural achievement, contribution to children, environmental leadership, and medical innovation.

Joanne, who is one of seven people worldwide living with total Amelia syndrome, meaning she was born without limbs, was lauded for her work as a disability campaigner as she picked up one of Junior Chamber International (JCI) Ireland’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons awards.

The teenager has publicly challenged the Government on cuts affecting people with disabilities, has addressed the United Nations on the importance of technology in her life, and is working with Trinity College Dublin to create a robot to help her with everyday tasks.

Her life story was captured in the widely acclaimed documentary No Limbs, No Limits.

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Fellow Cork resident Julie O’Mahony also received an award for her volunteer work with children in the Indian city of Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, as part of the Hope Foundation.

A student of early childhood studies at University College Cork, Julie, who is originally from Wexford, has raised more than €22,000 for the charity to date.

“Her commitment and passion for the children in Kolkata has ensured that Hope has the resources needed to continue to rescue vulnerable children from the slums and streets. She is so deserving of this award,” said Hope Foundation honorary director Maureen Forrest.

Dubliner Neil McCabe received the environmental leadership award for founding The Green Plan, a model of sustainable energy management which led to Kilbarrack Fire Station being recognised as the world’s first carbon-neutral station, while Mayo’s Olive O’Connor received a Medical Innovation award for her personal health record system, MediStori.

Galway man Brian Higgins was recognised for his Medical Exam Tutor, an online training tool for medical students.

Other award recipients include Mayo human rights lawyer Andrew Forde, and Galway’s Ian Staunton who was recognised for his work with the Special Olympics.

“It is a huge privilege to award Ireland’s most distinguished young people,” said Deborah McAndrew, director of community at JCI Ireland. “For a small country we have a wealth of talent to be proud of in all areas.”

All winners are now in contention for a European award which will be held in Turkey in June.

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