A DONEMANA woman has been presented a top award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to foster care.
Hollie George, who was taken into foster care with her younger brother at age nine, was last week awarded the Fostering Network in Northern Ireland’s inaugural President’s Award.
Hollie was fostered by a couple from Donemana, who encouraged her to make the best of every opportunity presented to her despite a challenging start in life, in which she missed a full year of school and spent much of her time caring for her younger brother.
Now, at age 24, Hollie has graduated with a degree from Ulster University and has embarked on an ambitious consultancy career in Belfast. In her younger years she was named deputy head girl at her school.
With 'Foster Care Fortnight' currently taking place, Hollie says being fostered was vital for her success in life.
"It has been vital since the first day I went into care," she said. "If I didn’t have the support I got, I don't know where I would be. I am forever grateful.
"Before being put into foster care, life was very challenging. Before I went into care life was very different, but being fostered offered me a second chance.
"I was moved to Donemana, a place where no-one knew anything about me. My foster mum and dad were very much open and supported me through that change. They told me to keep my head down and get my work done, and pushed me to get my GCSE's.
"I then took the decision to do A-Levels and went on to study at University. I graduated with that in 2017 and have been working in consultancy since.
"I feel very much a part of the family, no blurred lines. Mum always said there was no difference between us. I still come home every weekend, and I keep in close contact with my foster brothers and sisters. It's just a normal family life."
During 'Foster Care Fortnight', Hollie is urging families everywhere to consider making a difference in a child's life by fostering.
"There are always opportunities for people to become foster carers. Every day there is a need for it, and someone will need help - everyone needs help.
"I hope to foster in the future, and I think everyone should consider it. If you are there and willing to reach out, I don't see why you wouldn't consider doing it.
"It's an exciting time for anyone. I would entice anyone to approach the Fostering Network. Fostering is such a lifeline for those in need."