Angie Benhaffaf, from Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, has been given the award in recognition of her ongoing courage and determination in the face of adversity.
The honour came on the third anniversary of the marathon operation that separated her two young sons, Hassan and Hussein.
Despite exhausting daily medical and family commitments, she makes time for fundraising, including ‘Straight Ahead’ which arranges free operations for children with spinal deformities. She also raises money for Crumlin Children’s Hospital and Enable Ireland, where her now three-year-old boys are undergoing physiotherapy.
When she learned during pregnancy that they were conjoined, she was told not to expect them to survive beyond week 24. She was then told not to expect them to survive the birth.
More than three years on, they are practising walking with prosthetic legs and Angie’s dream is to see them walk hand-in-hand through the school gates on their first day of school in 2015.
Cork soprano, Majella Cullagh, who nominated Angie for the award, said her ability to keep the ongoing home and medical commitments afloat, surviving on a carer’s allowance, “is truly amazing”.
“And, more amazingly, her energy, dynamism, and management skills are also used to benefit other charities” Ms Cullagh said.
Angie was recently involved in dispensing Easter eggs to sick children in various hospitals and organisations. She paid tribute to her husband and her two girls for their help.
“My wonderful husband Azzedine and the girls Malika and Iman get involved in all the charity work too, as well as the home duties. We feel it is important to teach the girls to help others, such as the Penny Dinners, the Spring Clean for Charity event, and many other such projects,” Angie said.
Ms Cullagh said Angie’s own health had suffered but she had refused to let her spirit be crushed.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Angie said she had never “shone at anything” when she was younger, but that when she became a mum, she “knew that was the best job for me”.
“Azzedine and I do physio everyday with the boys, put on the prosthetic legs and set up the parallel bars and such things. Our dream is that when the boys start school in 2015, they will walk in together hand-in-hand. I am determined to do everything to make that dream come true,” Angie said.