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Thursday 30 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Arthur Ellis Mary Fitzgerald

Woman who took domestic abuse survivors into her home receives volunteering award

Mary Fitzgerald founded Clare Haven Services.

A WOMAN WHO has helped people dealing with domestic abuse has been named the Christine Buckley Volunteer of the Year.

Mary Fitzgerald from Co Clare received the accolade at the Volunteer Ireland Awards last night.

The annual awards honour the more than one million people who volunteer in Ireland.

Fitzgerald has volunteered from an early age and previously travelled to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta.

On her return to Ireland, Fitzgerald started to take in families who were fleeing from domestic violence – so they wouldn’t have to sleep in a local Garda station.  

She founded Clare Haven Services in 1993 which eventually led to the development of a 24-hour refuge for those escaping domestic abuse.

Fitzgerald wanted to help girls and boys identify abusive patterns early on in a relationship and in the 1990s she delivered school workshops about healthy relationships.

These workshops have now become part of the current SPHE programme in secondary schools.

Volunteer Ireland CEO Nina Arwitz said Fitzgerald  is “a real inspiration” who “saw a need in her community and took action to make a difference in people’s lives”.

HPV vaccine 

Other winners included Laura Brennan who, despite having been diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer at age 25, advocates to raise awareness of the HPV vaccine.

The award for Outstanding Group was taken home by Pullough Community Action Group who created a community shop in their village which is fundraised for and manned by volunteers.

Arwitz said she hoped the winners’ stories “will inspire others to get involved in their communities”.

Winners were announced in 11 categories at the awards, which are in their 11th year. 

The Christine Buckley Volunteer of the Year, the main award, is named after the late Christine Buckley who was a vigorous campaigner for those who suffered institutional abuse.

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