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Young volunteers gather in Northern Ireland

By Ann Marie Foley - 17 February, 2015

John McAreavey

John McAreavey

GAA star and the man behind the Michaela Foundation, John McAreavey, has encouraged pupils to volunteer and contribute positively to their community.

“You will never experience the same sense of joy and fulfilment as you do by reaching out and feeling that you are really helping people,” he said.

“Forming the Michaela Foundation has really helped me and has transformed my life. Now I know I am making a difference.”

He said hundreds of you people that volunteering can help them prepare for university or a first job, because volunteers find it easier to meet people and face new situations.

“Volunteering is not just about giving but is a win-win situation for young people,” he said. “It can help them to develop very important skills such as increasing self-confidence and developing integrity.”

John Mc McAreavey spoke about the youth foundation named after his late wife Michaela to more than 350 pupils who had gathered at a St Vincent de Paul (SVP) youth conference in Ballymena.

‘Positivity and hope’ was the theme at the event which was held last week and where participants shared projects completed in 2014 with students from almost 20 schools across Northern Ireland.

John McAreavey from the Michaela Foundation and guest speaker at the SVP Youth event, joins two of the participants, Catherine Ann Traynor from Our lady of Lourdes High School and Michael Rooney from St. Malachy’s College, with Pauline Brown and Claire Morgan from St Vincent de Paul and Father Raymond McCullagh.

John McAreavey, Michaela Foundation and guest speaker join participants Catherine Ann Traynor, Our lady of Lourdes High Schoo,l and Michael Rooney St. Malachy’s College, with Pauline Brown and Claire Morgan, SVP and Fr Raymond McCullagh

The 13-18 year olds have been involved in introducing Year 8 pupil befriending schemes, and establishing homework clubs.

They have also been involved in visiting the elderly, and organising fundraising activities and food hamper collections in Northern Ireland where SVP is a cross-community organisation.

Claire Morgan, Youth Co-Ordinator for SVP, explained “We hear so many negative stories in the news about young people but this event proves that there are so many inspiring pupils doing great things and who regularly share their time, talents and energy to make a difference in the lives of other people.

She said that the event was a way of thanking the students for their hard work and effort, as well as helping them meet like-minded people.

“The Youth Programme also supports and helps pupils with their school work in the subject areas of Learning for Life and Work and Religious Studies. Instead of just reading about issues and writing about how to tackle them, we bring the curriculum to life and offer pupils the chance to have a real ‘hands-on’ experience of positively contributing to the areas where they live,” she said.

At the annual youth conference, the charity called for more schools and young people, across all denominations, to become involved with SVP.

The Michaela Foundation was also present with volunteers Aoife and Caoimhe who spoke with students about the work of Foundation and the volunteering opportunities.

They were delighted with the number of people who expressed an interest in volunteering at the Michaela Camps this summer.

The Michaela Foundation is inspired by the life of Michaela McAreavey, a daughter of the well known GAA Tyrone team manager Mickey Harte and the wife of John McAreavey.

It runs summer camps with sports and creative activities, and other initiatives for young people that encourage the practice of all the values Michaela, her family and friends hold dear.

The foundation has core values including a love of Irish language and cultural identity and the development of trust and a relationship with God, as well as fun, sports, well-being and fashion.

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