Martina Flanagan Community Hero
Martina Flanagan Finn Valley Centre Community Hero February 2018.
Born in Donegal her parents were Ellen McClafferty from Creeslough and James Macken, from Ballintra. She was brought up in Fulham, London but spent her summer holidays each year in Donegal. Martina loved the county and was quicker than most to realise it was the “coolest place on earth” long before it received the accolade, and in 1981 as a single girl she relocated to Donegal as it was always a wish of hers to live here. After arriving in Donegal she got a position in the Health Board before moving to the local employment office where she worked for over five years. During this time she met and married Sean Flanagan and they set up home and reared their family in their home overlooking the beautiful Lough Mourne.
Involvement in Community
She became involved the Scouts Association in Stranorlar (6th Donegal Stranorlar) when in 1998 she was asked to join as a leader by the late Charlie Boyle R.I.P. The ethos of the scouting association appealed to Martina because as a child she was involved in the Girl Guides so she had a naturally affinity to the organisation which does such great work with children and youths.
Scouting is a journey of personal development through fun, adventure and challenge. Children involved in scouts learn by doing, acquiring confidence within a small team of friends, discovering self-sufficiency and independence while on activities and especially on camps and hikes. Having had a background in Girl Guides, Martina immediately recognised the similarities between the two groups and was very willing to get involved in the local group who are very involved with the community and always took part in the local clean up event in the Twin Towns. They also take part in walks, hikes, orienteering and skills days each year. There are different age groups in
the scouting organisation that caters for children, youths and young adults from the ages of 6 through to 25 as follows;
Beaver scouts are girls and boys aged 6-8
Cub scouts are girls and boys aged 9-11
Scouts are girls and boys aged 12-15
Venture scouts are girls and boys aged 15-17
Rover scouts are girls and boys aged 18-25
The Role of Scout Leader
Martina started off as a Scout Leader and then became the Group leader of the 6th Donegal Stranorlar Scouts in 2005 and has continued in this role to the present day.
As group leader her role is to look after the different sections Beavers, Cubs and Scouts and oversee the groups as well as organise training for leaders and ensure child protection guidelines are adhered to.
In her earlier years in the organisation she was also a trainer of trainers for the Errigal Scout County which covers a wide area from Killybegs in Co Donegal to Limavady in Co Derry.
As Scout Leader she hosts the planning for Errigal Scout County in Stranorlar Den each year and is involved in setting up and preparation for these meetings. She also attends management meetings throughout the year as well as being present in Stranorlar Den as a leader each Monday and Wednesday night when scouts are on throughout the year.
She attends the national conference in Dublin each year in her role as Group Leader as part of the strategy development for the overall organisation as well as helping to organise yearly events in Stranorlar alongside all the other local leaders who do such great work.
Martina would like to pay tribute to all the leaders based in Stranorlar who give of their time and efforts each week and indeed on weekends when events are taking place. Alongside Martina these leaders, Laura McGinty, Colm O’Dwyer, Aishing Bonner, Rosemary Murray, Lee McGaugley and James O’Reilly combine to provide a great service to the children of this community and are to be applauded for their countless hours of volunteering.
She also thanks the parents of children who come through the scouts and achieve their badges through hard work and dedication building life skills, independence and self-esteem along the way as their support is very important to the continued work of the local scout group. As leaders, it is rewarding to see the development in confidence in each child coming through the ranks. Indeed some of the present leaders were themselves children who came up through the scouts.
As a scout leader Martina has travelled on camping trips with groups of children to Holland four times, Scotland, Copenhagen and Denmark once and she has also travelled as part of the Irish contingency to Sweden as an International Scout Team Member. During these trips the Stranorlar group travel with other scouting groups within the Errigal Scout County giving children and youths fantastic experience of travel and an opportunity to build their social skills in an environment that is practical based and all about hands on experience, something which is often lacking in the current climate with the pervasiveness of technology.
Highlights of Volunteering
There have been many highlights for Martina during her time as group leader and scout member. She was awarded bronze and silver merit awards in recognition for her dedication to Scouting Ireland and her Stranorlar Group and then on the 24th Feb 2014 she was delighted to receive the gold merit award.
Her other highlight was going to meet local leader Aishling Bonner at Dublin Airport to welcome her back when she achieved her Explorer Belt which was a fantastic accolade for the local group. These Explorer Belts are extremely difficult to achieve and involve the participant being left off at a base camp in Germany to survive on their own and travel for 200 km through the country before returning to base. This achievement was marked with a homecoming reception in Stranorlar Den.
Martina is always on the lookout for leaders and for those thinking about it she states that is a very rewarding experience both on a personal level and as a leader. She has made lifelong friends through the scouting association and when all the groups meet it is not only a scouting occasion but a great social one.
Being community minded Martina was also involved in helping in the parish centre after events or when help was required and she looks forward each year to the Senior Citizens Christmas party
where she loves meeting people and helping out.
It’s refreshing to see that there are many individuals who invest in youth in the community and those who do, provide a fantastic service in helping young people develop their confidence and in supporting them to learn basic life skills that will hold them in good stead in the years to come. There are many in various groups who contribute towards youth development in the Twin Towns area, some of whom we have highlighted previously through the monthly community hero slot. Martina and her scout leaders are certainly great examples of those who give their very best to invest in the youth in this community and when they can produce leaders from their own ranks this is a testament to the great work they are doing. The importance of the contribution of these and other community youth leaders should not be underestimated. Best wishes to Martina and her team of leaders and long may they continue in their various roles.
If you or someone you know would like to become a scout leader you may contact Martina or any of the local leaders at Stranorlar Scouts Den or by contacting Martina on 086/4010569.