Mayo woman Sarah Regan was in for a big surprise when none other than former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny presented her with a Gaisce Award this week.
Sarah, (25) from Claremorris -who attends the Rehabcare centre in Castlebar- had absolutely no idea the award she had worked so hard for would be presented to her by Mayo’s most famous resident, Deputy Enda Kenny.
The Gaisce Awards honour those who undertake challenges in order to benefit their community, good causes and gain independence
Sarah, who has a physical and sensory disability, was presented with her award during a special ceremony, organised by RehabCare, in the Breaffy House Hotel on Monday.
“It is an honour to present this award to Sarah,” said Deputy Kenny. “It demonstrates her commitment and belief that she undertook this challenge and completed it successfully. It is particularly significant that her award is based on being able to teach International Sign Language, so critical for people with impaired hearing. I congratulate Sarah and commend her as an outstanding role model for others.”
Speaking about their prestigious award, Sarah said she was thrilled to be able to use her skills to teach others about the importance of effective communications which opens up doors for people with disabilities and hearing impairment.
Sarah said: “I really enjoyed all of the activities. I am very happy I was able to achieve this bronze award. I would like to thank all the staff at RehabCare, especially my keyworker Clare, who enabled me to do Gaisce. I would also like to thank the students who learned sign language. I am thrilled that the sign language course is something GMIT may now continue as a result of this. It was a massive surprise to see the former Taoiseach today.”
Sarah managed to succeed in all the Bronze Gaisce Award Challenges. She decided to use her knowledge of sign language as the main challenge of her award, teaching International Sign Language (I.S.L) as part of her Community Development challenge.
She worked alongside the Social Studies programme in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) for 13 weeks, delivering an introduction to Irish Sign Language. Sarah also delivered the programme, with minimal support from her Keyworker, Clare, to 12 first year students on the social studies programme. This was a huge success and is something GMIT are now hoping to continue.
For her personal development challenge, Sarah delivered a 13 week programme of I.S.L. to her peers within Rehab Group. Sarah also took up a 13 week Zumba programme within the centre which she thoroughly enjoyed.
Finally, for her Adventure Journey challenge, Sarah organised a trip for herself and her peers to Westport where they visited Westport House and gardens, as well as Murrisk and Croagh Patrick.
Gaisce has meant a lot to Sarah, her family and her colleagues at RehabCare in Castlebar.
Lorraine Joy Gibbons, Community Service Manager at RehabCare in Castlebar, said the award was a “fantastic achievement” for Sarah.
“Sarah is an amazing young woman and everybody at RehabCare are very proud of her,” said Lorraine.
“Getting this Gaisce award has been an incredible achievement and has increased her confidence. We have services supporting people with disabilities in every county in Ireland and we know the important impact and contribution they make in their communities. Every day in Rehab centres across the country we see people face up to their challenges and achieve great things, so it’s wonderful to see this award recognising Sarah’s success,” added Lorraine.