Emily Duffy, youth volunteer from Desmond College has been recognised in the 2017 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards

For the dedication she has demonstrated in service to her community, Emily Duffy, from Desmond College, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick has been recognised as one of 20 finalists in the 2017 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards, the only all-Ireland youth initiative of its kind which rewards post-primary students for outstanding acts of volunteerism and the positive contribution they make in their local communities and further afield.

Feb 2017: Emily Duffy, 6th year Desmond College Newcastle West Co. Limerick , student finalist in 2017 Pramerica Spirit of the Community Awards ProgrammeEmily, a sixth year student at Desmond College, volunteers with the Mendicity Institute and developed the Duffily bag designed to protect homeless people that is now manufactured by service users of the charity.

Emily was initially moved by the high levels of homelessness in Ireland, and was motivated by her past entrances into the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

She then went on to invent the Duffily Bag, a sleeping bag for homeless people. Emily ensured that her invention met their needs and requirements and also developed a production process with them to ensure efficient production.

Emily spent countless hours on the final design and production of the Duffily Bag that now protects homeless people from the harsh conditions they experience living on the streets. The bag is now being produced in the Mendicity Institute, a homeless charity in Dublin, and the service users earn €10 an hour.

She also fundraised for and distributed 75 Duffily bags to the refuges of Calais and Dunkerque.

Emily has made a difference to our world. Her actions have improved the lives of countless people,” said school principal, Vourneen Gavin Barry. “There was no gain or advantage in this for Emily except that she wants to make the world a better place. She is a wonderful young woman.

The post-primary students, who hail from all corners of Ireland, will be presented with €500 and an engraved silver medallion at the gala awards ceremony on 23rd March at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dublin with special guest speaker Irish international rugby player Jordi Murphy.

At the gala, two of the 20 students will be named All-Ireland Youth Volunteers of the Year, receiving €1,000, a gold medallion, a crystal trophy for their school and an all-expense paid trip to the United States in May to participate in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards ceremony.

The 20 finalists are extremely passionate about the work they carry out in their local community, and their stories are truly inspiring,” said Andrea McBride, vice president, Pramerica Systems Ireland. “From supporting young people with Down syndrome to travelling to work in an orphanage abroad, they are aiding a broad range of charities and organisations through their selfless acts of volunteerism. It is humbling to see the commitment and dedication from these young people, and we are honoured to recognise the volunteering they are doing in their local schools, communities and abroad to make the lives better of those less fortunate than themselves.

The programme is run in partnership with the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) and the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI). The programme is also supported by Volunteer Now, Volunteer Ireland, Scouting Ireland and Foróige.