Gena Heraty named Irish Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year

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Mayo woman Gena Heraty was named Irish Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year at the Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards which took place in the Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin on Saturday 16 November. 
The Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards Ball honours humanitarian achievements and recognises those who have had a humanitarian impact on the lives of others through volunteering, skill sharing, storytelling or fundraising. The awards also highlight the efforts of those who have given a voice to humanitarian issues.
The 2019 Humanitarian of the Year winner, Gena Heraty, arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1993 and almost three decades later is known all over Haiti for challenging prejudice against people with physical and intellectual disabilities. Conditions are extremely challenging in Haiti, and Gena has faced a vicious attack by armed men, where one of her colleagues was killed. 

Irish Red Cross

Gena is the Coordinator of the Special Needs programme with Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs (NPFS), a home for orphaned and abandoned children. Gena’s team has developed an outreach programme which provides education for over 100 school children with neurological disorders while approximately 80 patients a day (or 30,000 a year) receive physical therapy treatments. Gena is the co-founder of the Kay Christine home for children with special needs at NPFS which has created services to ensure children with special needs are not abandoned.

Young Humanitarian Award

The Kerry-based Donal Walsh #LiveLife Foundation was named winner in the Young Humanitarian category. Donal Walsh touched the hearts of the nation when he came to prominence through his writings and appearance on Brendan O’Connor’s The Saturday Night Show.

Donal Walsh

While Donal battled cancer he became very aware of the effect his illness was having on his family and friends. Donal’s experience of fighting to live spurred him on to address, publicly, an issue which he was in a very unique position to comment on: teenage suicide.

The #LiveLife Foundation was set up after Donal died, to promote his anti-suicide message and to fundraise. Donal found there were not enough facilities in hospices in terms of teenage mental health and faith, both of which were a big part of Donal's life. Donal's Foundation has now raised and distributed €500,000 to help develop these facilities. In the midst of his illness Donal also worked tirelessly and raised €65,000 for the children’s hospital in Crumlin.

Innovation for Change

Austin Campbell is founder of My Streets Ireland which trains people who are homeless to become walking tour guides in their own city. My Streets runs three-month training courses focused on confidence and presentation skills, creative writing, research and tour guiding, and offers graduates the opportunity to become paid tour guides. All of the My Streets Ireland guides have experienced or are experiencing homelessness and they understand the streets that run through our towns and cities better than anyone else. The aim of the programme is to help the guides to educate the public about their lives and to foster empathy. My Streets Ireland has attracted 12,000 customers to date. Austin is also director of Robert Emmet CDP, a community development project which gives voice and opportunity to marginalised people in south west inner-city Dublin.

Journalism Excellence

Sally Hayden is a journalist and photographer who focuses on conflict, migration and humanitarian crises. She has reported across Europe, the Middle East and Africa for outlets including the BBC, The Irish Times, TIME, CNN, Al Jazeera and The New York Times. Sally’s investigation into the arrest and torture of refugees returning to regime-held parts of Syria won first prize in the 2018 European Migration Media Awards. Her investigation into corruption in the UN Refugee Agency in Sudan led to a staff member being found guilty of abuse of power and soliciting bribes. For over a year, Sally has been in daily contact with refugees in Libyan detention centres, who use hidden phones to send evidence of human rights abuses.

Corporate Impact Award

Aldi was named winner in the Corporate Impact category. Aldi has introduced initiatives to tackle climate change step by step over the past number of years. Every Aldi store in the UK and Ireland now has an Energy Management System, using energy-saving technology and employee awareness to help achieve the most efficient energy consumption possible.

Another example of the retailer's work in this area is reducing fuel consumption through fuel-efficient tyres on vehicles and investment in fuel management systems, while LED lighting saves on carbon. Aldi has also upgraded fridges, freezers, and other appliances with environmentally-friendly equipment.

Aldi is also offsetting its remaining carbon footprint via carbon offset projects in Peru, India, Vietnam and Ghana.

The judges for the awards were Martin Shanahan, CEO IDA Ireland, Peter O’Halloran, Brigadier General, Irish Defence Forces, Liam O’Brien, Director of Strategy & External Affairs Vodafone, Derry Gray, Partner, BDO, Aisling Reidy, Senior Legal Advisor, Human Rights Watch and Professor Hannah McGee, Dean & Chief Academic Officer at RCSI. Ivan Yates was MC for the night.