An Ennis woman who launched a website for high-ability children was honoured at the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards last week.
Margaret Keane received the Level 1 award as a result of her work with Giftedkids.ie, the website she founded in February 2008 as a support and advocacy site for Irish exceptionally able children, their parents and teachers.
The Giftedkids Community Forum also provides users the opportunity to network with others, to offer support, share resources and seek advice on a variety of parenting and educational issues.
Thirty-one social entrepreneurs were honoured at the ceremony, each picking up awards ranging from €6,000 to €80,000.
President McAleese, who was guest of honour, hailed the recipients as “people who do not wait for others to tackle problems but acknowledge their own responsibility and create their own opportunities not for selfish but for unselfish reasons and outcomes.”
From small beginnings, Giftedkids.ie is now run by a voluntary group of parents and teachers, with over 89,000 visitors to date. The site is unique in that it is the first website in Ireland to actively meet the needs of Ireland’s estimated 23,000 exceptionally able children. These children often struggle in school and feel isolated from peers and teachers. Some may also have additional learning challenges such as aspergers or dyslexia. Without appropriate support they can disengage with the learning process and significantly underachieve.
As a parent of two exceptionally able children, Margaret understood the difficulties these children can encounter in their journey through the education system. Speaking with other parents, it became clear to her that there was a real need for an information portal and support network of some kind.
“Gifted children are ordinary kids with an extraordinary talent for learning. They can come from all socio-economic backgrounds and from all communities. It’s our mission is to ensure that all high-ability children, regardless of background or financial circumstances, get access to an appropriate education that meets their special educational needs,” said Margaret.
The funding provided by the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award is being used to produce a pilot series of six free online webinars aimed at parents, teachers and other professionals working with gifted children. These will be launched in January 2010.
“Social Entrepreneurs Ireland has been incredibly supportive of our work. The level of mentoring and guidance that awardees receive is phenomenal and the opportunity to network with other awardees have proved invaluable. It has allowed the Giftedkids site to grow and develop new and much-needed resources for our target groups.”
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland aims to ignite social change by identifying, investing in and supporting Irish social entrepreneurs. Since 2004, the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards programme has selected and supported 142 leading social entrepreneurs, providing financial support, training and network opportunities.