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17 Aug 2022

Laois shopkeeper's son wins Gaisce Gold President's medal

Laois shopkeeper's son wins Gaisce Gold President's medal

Odhran Whelehan receiving his medal from President of Ireland Michael D Higgins.

A Laois shopkeepers' son is among three young people from the county to win a Gaisce Gold President's Medal.

A son of newsagents Martin and Martina Whelehan from Portarlington, Odhran Whelehan received his award personally from President Michael D Higgins at Áras and Uachtaráin last week.

Odhran who learned how to speak fluent Irish as part of his challenges, recommends the Gaisce Gold challenge to others. 

"It was a really great experience. I started it at the beginning of lockdown and it gave me a lot of direction. I had just come home from a work placement in Chicago as a community organiser and that reinvigorated my passion for community work.

His Gaisce partner was NUI Galway where he is studying for a Masters in Public Policy. 

To achieve his Gold he set about learning the Irish language, doing gym work, volunteered in Best Buddies (Charity/Society in NUI Galway), completing a trek from Killarney to Magillicuddy Reeks (80km) and did a Gaisce Gold Online Residential Project themed around Global Citizenship.

"Volunteering with Best Buddies involved befriending people with intellectual disabilities, all on Zoom because it was during Covid. I chose to do a diploma As Gaeilge because I didn't want to lose my Leaving Cert Irish and I always wished to be more fluent. Again Covid gave me a lot more time to listen to podcasts," he told the Leinster Express.

"The setting was stunning in the Áras, unfortunately we couldn't bring guests because of Covid restrictions but it was great meeting the President, I had a chat with Sabina and even got to meet the dogs. 

"I would absolutely recommend doing Gaisce to anybody. I did a bronze in school and went straight for the Gold then. It was a good idea in terms of career too, it gave me a great sense of purpose," Odhran said.

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