Clare Youth Service volunteer, Nicky Brennan has been presented with the Extra Mile Award, the prestigious annual accolade of Youth Work Ireland.
Nicky has been involved with Clare Youth Service for over forty-three years and is the longest serving volunteer involved with young people in the county.
Over the years, he has been involved in several youth clubs in Ennis and since the early 1980’s, he has devoted countless hours to supporting hundreds of young people through the medium of music primarily.
Many young musicians and bands, even some now in their late forties, can testify to Nicky’s guidance and how he facilitates them to discover their skills and talents
CEO of Clare Youth Service, Margaret Slattery spoke of Brennan’s influence on the life of young people in the Banner County. “Quite simply, he has made an amazing contribution to young people, to adults, to entire community and especially to the Youth Service. Underpinning all of his work has been a commitment to supporting young people to take a leading role in developing the projects and clubs as well as supporting their personal and social development.
Jim McMahon Chairperson of Clare Youth Service paid tribute to Nicky’s approach in volunteering for the CYS. “Nicky goes the extra mile and has done so for nearly half a century. The management team, staff, young people and board of CYS are delighted that he has been recognised nationally because his impact to the well-being and creativity of young people has been enormous.”
He continued “He is a real believer in active youth participation and young people taking responsibility for the projects and programmes. He believes that an ounce of praise or encouragement can help a person’s confidence and ability to thrive. He is a deep listener and a passionate advocate for young people. His life demonstrates a lifelong commitment to young people and their growth.”
In the late 80’s and 90’s, Nicky began looking at music as a tool for creating space for young people to talk. He began to teach young people the guitar allowing them to express themselves through music. He encouraged young people to express their concerns through their music using it as a way of relaxation and self-expression.
A key feature of Nicky’s approach is the way in which he has supported a number of young people to get involved in teaching others with many of these young people going on to build a career in music some as teachers and some as music therapists. Several individuals supplemented their college grants through both busking and teaching music because of Nicky’s encouragement.
His philosophy is that people teach themselves and his role it to facilitate that process. Sessions are also low cost or free, money has never been a barrier to participation. The contributions from the children and young people are ploughed back into the project. In addition, he has made sure that equipment is supplied for young people who did not have access or cannot afford instruments.
Nicky Brennan’s work has been hailed as an outstanding example of the spirit of volunteerism.