Big hugs and joyful hellos could be heard as people assembled in an intimate theatre in The Ark Cultural Centre for children. There could be no better setting to celebrate a woman who has dedicated her life to advocating for children’s rights. The event brought together an array of people all gathered to pay tribute to Senator Jillian van Turnhout’s work. Family, friends and work colleagues such as members of the Girl Scouts of Ireland and Children’s Rights Alliance, as well as colleagues from the Seanad, including Ivana Bacik and Judge Catherine McGuiness, all came along to celebrate with Jillian.
The evening began with a welcome by Ark director Aideen Howard, who paid tribute to the efforts of the Children’s Rights Alliance and Senator van Turnhout’s contributions within in the organization. Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, followed by acknowledging Jillian for her excellent mentorship and great friendship as former leader of the Children’s Rights Alliance. These introductory speeches set the scene for what was an inspiring story told by Senator van Turnhout herself. As someone new to the field of Children’s Rights in Ireland, I was surprised and inspired to discover that she was the figure who spearheaded campaigns for many of the important bills passed for children’s rights, such as the ban on corporal punishment. What amazed me still was the perseverance and dignity with which she went about getting these bills through the Seanad and the Dail. Through her story she was also able to impart some words of wisdom to all members in the audience, many of whom continue to strive to make a difference in the lives of children. Personally, I took away some important advice from her lecture. She emphasised the necessity to pick your battles and fight persistently for them; to stay steadfast in your beliefs; to never do anything for the sake of it; and, lastly, that dedication, hard work and belief in a dream makes it not just an optimistic hope, but an achievable goal.
Many, if not all, of the people in that theatre were behind Jillian in her causes and are still fighting for the rights and well-being of the children of Ireland. There are still many issues to be dealt with but the experience of hearing about how major feats are achieved in the face of numerous obstacles gives hope and a new drive to those of us fighting alongside and FOR the children of Ireland.
Every member of the Sugru staff pays tribute to THE remarkable Jillian Van Turnhout – a woman whose journey and commitment inspired Executive Directors Arlene Naughten and Lorraine Lynch to begin offering psychological services to children with ANY need, without labels or a waiting time.
Senator Van Turnhout, we see how you genuinely respected and loved the innocence, vulnerability and beauty within children and we at Sugru are now committed to continuing your ethos to embody the voice of the child and never stop fighting for their rights.
Thank you for all you have done, Jillian – your strength, compassion and influence will always be with us!
Don’t stop believing!
Arlene, Lorraine, Carla, Jessica & Debbie
Contribution: Carla Engel and Lorraine Lynch