Community Foundation for Ireland Announces 2008 Philanthropist of the Year Winners

The Community Foundation for Ireland today announced the winners of the second annual Philanthropist of the Year Awards. Once again the awards were a huge success and the quantity, as well as quality, of entries was very high indeed. Read the rest of this article to watch video profiles of each award winner.

Declan Ryan was named Philanthropist of the Year - Ireland and Jane Corboy was awarded Philanthropist of the Year – International. This year the Community Foundation for Ireland added a new category to the awards - Philanthropist of the Year – Local, which was awarded to Limerick man, Ralph Parkes. This new award honours individuals who have made a significant impact in their own local community or at a regional level in Ireland.

Tina Roche, Chief Executive of The Community Foundation for Ireland, said “Now more than ever we are in a climate where the demands for services are skyrocketing while the well of public funding support is increasingly in danger of drying up. We have seen today how individuals can make a huge impact in their local communities, in their own country and overseas when they make a commitment to making a difference. We have the chance to become an example to the rest of the world and show that the spirit of giving is alive in Ireland even in the toughest of circumstances.”

The Community Foundation for Ireland’s Philanthropist of the Year Awards recognise and honour those individuals who have shown exceptional generosity and commitment through direct financial support and engagement with charities and voluntary organisations both here in Ireland and abroad.

Nominations were received from volunteer groups and other charitable organisations throughout Ireland. The winners were decided by a high profile independent judging panel which included Liz O’Donnell, Eamon Coghlan, Conor O’Clery and was chaired by author Deirdre Purcell.

Declan Ryan on behalf of One Foundation received the Irish award for his pioneering role in philanthropy in Ireland. Established in 2004, the One Foundation applies a venture philanthropy model: investing in people and organisations that seek to have a significant impact on social problems, with major investments to date including Barnardos, Migrant Rights Centre, Big Brother Big Sister, Headstrong, and Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

Commenting on the award, a One Foundation spokesperson said, “We are deeply honoured to receive this award, a recognition of what the One Foundation and our partners have achieved to date.  Deciding to limit the life-span of the Foundation to a 10-year period has presented a continual challenge to these organisations to ‘think big’, and required Foundation investments to match the scale of these visions for impact on social issues. We are excited at the ambition and energy we’ve seen unlocked through this active philanthropy, and hope others in Ireland will step up to be part of this rewarding experience.”

Watch a video about Declan Ryan’s philanthropy:

Jane Corboy was given the International award for her exceptional work as the founder of The Next Step, an Irish-Georgian charity which cares for mentally and physically disabled children in Georgia, the former Soviet Republic. The Next Step, Children of Caucasus (patron former President Mary Robinson) is an NGO, set up ten years ago to help children and young adults with intellectual and physical disability in Georgia, most notably providing decent residential and medical care, day care educational services for children with profound disability and home based social care services for very disabled children and their families.

Jane Corboy founded Next Step in response to the horrendous living conditions of disabled orphans living in the notorious state-run Kaspi Institution, near Tbilisi, Georgia. Jane and her husband, Denis Corboy, the then EU Ambassador for Georgia, were posted to Tiblisi for five years, where they became aware of the Kaspi Orphanage’s desperate plight. Lack of proper care and nutrition at Kaspi orphanage had led to the death of 24 children during the Winter of 1993-94. The Kaspi Orphanage closed its doors this November thanks to Next Step.

Speaking at the awards Jane Corboy said “There are some causes that must not be constrained by borders. The suffering of the world’s children cannot be ignored as another country’s problem. It can only be relieved by the world community working together. The Next Step is an example of how much can be achieved with the help of philanthropists from all over the world.”

Watch a video about Jane Corboy’s philanthropy:

The winner of the Philanthropist of the Year – Local, Ralph Parkes, was recognised for the huge impact that his philanthropy has made in his local community of Limerick. Mr. Parkes responded to a call made by the Mid West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association. Their dream was to have a fully accessible, purpose built, state-of the art centre for the organisation to provide their much needed services. Mr. Parkes spent five years ensuring this project was realised through financial backing, donating his time, expertise, and providing access to his business contacts. The organisation now operates what it regards as the finest facility in the Mid-West region.

“I feel privileged to be in a position where I can help make a difference for an organisation like the Mid West Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association. Communities rely on the generosity of local people to create a better environment for all those who live in them. I encourage everyone to look around their local community for areas where they can make a difference in any way they can,” said Mr. Parkes.

Watch a video about Ralph Parkes’ philanthropy.

Ms Roche said “The individuals that we honour today have demonstrated how much can be achieved through the passion and generosity of those who stand up and take action for a better society as a whole. These awards are not only about celebrating their current philanthropic activity but also recognising their ability to inspire others to think big, to get involved and to become the philanthropists of the future. We hope that the winners here today will help inspire and encourage those who may be interested in planning their charitable giving.”

The Community Foundation for Ireland was established in 2000 and has grown with the support of individuals, families, businesses, and other institutions. The Community Foundation helps people to engage in more effective philanthropic activity by matching donors with the most deserving and worthwhile causes throughout Ireland.

For further information please contact:

Moira Horgan, Marketing Manager, 086 172 2105 / 01 874 3812