There was barely a dry eye in the house on Friday night when Derry’s Woman of the Year Jacqueline Williamson gave her Woman of the Year’ award to her friend Kiera Coyle.
An overwhelmed Jacqueline Williamson paid tribute to Kiera, who was named category winner in the Contribution to Childcare award saying: “I can think of no better person to give my award to.”
The City Hotel was packed on Friday night for the award ceremony.
And when Jacqueline Williamson, founder of Kinship Care was announced as the overall winner, there was even an impromptu appearance by the charity’s mascot Kuddles.
“I feel absolutely fantastic and I am very grateful to everyone for their support and to Kathleen Bradley who nominated me,” said Jacqueline. “It was a great evening.
“I came here tonight with Kiera Coyle, an amazing woman who began raising her little brother and sister when her parents died. When I received my award I could think of no better person to give it to.
“Winning this award will be great for Kinship Care. I hope people here tonight will all know who we are and it will raise the profile of the work we are doing in the city.”
In her nomination form Kathleen explained: “Jacqueline grew up in the public care system for 14 years. Most of the other girls that Jacqueline was in care with are now dead.
“Jacqueline helped secure £1 million for a rapid response programme to assist street drinkers and people at risk of homelessness as a result of substance misuse.
“In the last year Jacqueline has had to deal with the death of her only sister through alcohol misuse and is now helping to raise her niece.
“Jacqueline’s ability to get herself out of poverty, overcome tragedy, handle a lifetime of rejection, beat all odds and still go on to start a charity is an example of what women are, committed, resilient, determined and capable.”
Paying tribute to Jacqueline, Mayor Cllr Martin Reilly said she was a well deserved winner who made a marked difference to the lives of others.
He said: “Jacqueline is an incredibly passionate advocate who has worked in the voluntary sector to improve the lives of both children and carers in the current system. As chair of Kinship her hard work and dedication has helped to enhance the circumstances in which children and carers may find themselves in isolated circumstances. She is an inspiration for the Kinship Care mission and for all who are involved or have used their services. Using her own personal experiences of growing up within the care service, her passion for the role, dedication, commitment and desire has helped others in keeping them out of the system focusing on keeping families together. I am delighted that she has been given this recognition of Woman of the Year 2014.”
Other winners on the night were: Niree McMorris, Contribution to Women’s Community Development; Margaret Semple, Contribution to Health; Dawn McLaughlin, Contribution to Enterprise; Georgina Kee-McCarter & Arlene McLaughlin, Joint winners of Contribution to Community Relations, Joanne Scahill, Contribution to Community Safety; Karen Clift, Contribution to the Arts; Caroline Roddy, Contribution to Formal & Informal Education; Rosemary O Donnell, Contribution to Older People; Muriel Wallace, Contribution to Youth; Kiera Coyle, Contribution to Childcare; Liadhan McCourt, Contribution to Caring; and Adele Darby; Women Living with a Disability, Shanagh Henderson, Contribution for Young Women and for this first time this year Contribution to Trade Unions, sponsored by Unison was won by Ann Donnelly.
Mayor Martin Reilly extended a big thank you to everyone involved in making Woman of the Year event such a huge and continued success. He paid tribute to all the nominees by acknowledging the important role each and every one of them plays in providing support to people across the city. Continuing he said he was extremely supportive of any event that celebrates the important role played by the local community and voluntary sector and acknowledged the role of women in society.
Joanna Boyd, Women’s Officer with Derry City Council and co-ordinator of the awards said 2014 was yet again a great success story for winners, contributors and all involved.
“This year Unison has supported the event and we have a special contribution to Trade Unions in memory of late Inez McCormack.”
Thanking everyone for their nominations she said it was extremely difficult for the judges to pick winners with everyone being deserving of recognition.