2nd May, 2018

Twelve young people from across the Midwest region have received Bronze Gaisce Awards after participating in a unique equine-based project offered by leading social justice charity, Extern, and funded through the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund. A further Extern awardee received her Bronze Gaisce Award for her achievements in relation to music and sport.

The innovative ‘Jumping Hurdles’ project, sees Extern work with young people aged 12 to 17, from across counties Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.

The project has been devised by Extern’s Midwest team, to utilise young people’s love of horses in a way which will help them to increase their chances of employment, and encourage them to move away from the culture of criminality experienced in some areas in the region.

Extern was the largest single recipient of funding from the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund Awards in 2016 to deliver ‘Jumping Hurdles’ across the mid-west region.

The Gaisce Awards were presented to the young people at a ceremony in the Greenhills Hotel, Limerick (on Tuesday, 1st May), by Sean Lynch, Mayor of the Metropolitan District of Limerick; Yvonne McKenna, CEO, Gaisce, The President’s Award; and Ronan Farren, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for Coca-Cola Ireland. A total of 13 Gaisce Awards were presented to young people on the night, all of whom are participants in either Extern’s Janus or Gardai Youth Diversion Projects in the region.

Speaking after the ceremony, Robbie Corrigan, Extern Midwest Project Worker and creator of the project, said: “The participants in ‘Jumping Hurdles’ are at risk of home breakdown, education or exclusion problems, offending and anti-social behaviour, substance abuse, and mental health and emotional problems. We have been able, however, to use ‘Jumping Hurdles’ to provide a means for the young people to learn about horses, and then to channel that love of horses into looking after and respecting themselves, and subsequently their communities.

“All of us in Extern are extremely proud of the work our awardees have undertaken. As a result of the programme, we have seen their determination to achieve their Bronze Gaisce Award grow, and alongside that, their self-esteem, confidence, leadership skills and an increased sense of belonging within their communities.”

Charlie Mack, CEO of Extern, added: “I hope these awards will be the first of many Gaisce achievements for our young people, and commend them, and our staff in the Midwest region, for their dedication and commitment to the ‘Jumping Hurdles’ project. I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who has made ‘Jumping Hurdles’ possible, including Coca-Cola, Gaisce, Tusla, Limerick City and County Council, the Irish Youth Justice Service, our local partners in An Garda Síochána, Extern’s own Enterprise Fund and the staff at Clonlara Equestrian Centre.”

Commenting on the project, Ronan Farren, Director of Public Affairs and Communications at Coca-Cola Ireland, said: “Young people are the change-makers in our society. They have a vital role to play as next generation leaders of our economic, social and community development, and we want to empower them to do so. Through the Coca-Cola Thank You Fund we provide grants to non-profit organisations with ideas to support youth development. Extern Limerick’s project ‘Jumping Hurdles’ was a really exciting project for us to fund and it’s great to see it now in operation so successfully.

Congratulations to everyone who took part and for achieving your Gaisce Award as a result. I hope this programme can now be replicated in other areas to help more young people with a passion for horses develop their interest and skills.”

Working towards their Bronze Gaisce Awards, participants answered the call of the President to set themselves a range of personal challenges, and also took part in a personal development programme. Modules included Equine and Stable Management certified by the Association of Irish Riding Establishments; Restorative Practice which examined animal welfare and the impact of having horses in their communities; and classroom and practical equine-based sessions at Clonlara Equestrian Centre.

Congratulating the young people on their achievements, Yvonne McKenna, CEO of Gaisce, said:

“I am delighted to be present at this wonderful and important ceremony which recognises the significant accomplishment of our 13 Awardees. As an organisation, Gaisce is committed to ensuring quality of access and participation through partnerships and the developing relationship with Extern is one that is very important to us. Gaisce – The President’s Award is proven to enhance confidence and well-being, and we look forward to continuing the partnership with Extern and celebrating the successes of more Gaisce Awardees.”

Anyone interested in participating or finding out more about the ‘Jumping Hurdles Project’ can telephone the Extern Midwest team on 061-457222.