[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]The founder of Irish charity To Children With Love, Clontarf housewife Debbie Deegan has received one of the highest honours ever awarded to an Irish citizen by Russia.
Founded in 1998, the charity To Children With Love (once known as To Russia With Love) has dramatically changed the lives of thousands of abandoned and orphaned children in one of Russia’s most desolate regions.
The Clontarf woman spearheaded the work of the charity, ensuring that the children received education, healthcare and a safe ‘home’ environment.
Debbie received an Order of Friendship State Award after being personally selected by Russian president Vladimir Putin for the honour.
She travelled to Russia on Sunday, November 4 to receive the award, just days after watching her daughter Sophie getting married in Connemara.
The award acknowledges the role Debbie has played in strengthening friendship and co-operation between Ireland and Russia.
The Order of Friendship state award is intended to mutually enrich the relationships between the nations of the recipients.
Debbie said: “It is difficult to try and impart the impact that Irish people made when they chose to support a charity like ours which worked abroad.
“To us, it never mattered that ‘our’ children were in Russia because there is just one place they lived in, and that is in our hearts.
“The reality is, they depended on the generosity of the Irish people and the firm friendships we made with Russia over the years to make the positive impact we needed to make happen, happen.
“We committed ourselves to helping children who don’t have parents, and that’s all we do. We’re not political, we’re not religious. It’s always worked for us that way.”
The charity has helped 5,264 children over the 20 years the charity has been operating, with 77% of the children successfully integrating into society thanks to the support of Irish people.
Debbie said: “Our legacy will live on for many generations and while so much has improved from a social and economic perspective in Russia over recent years, we will always have a part of our hearts there.
“We met so many wonderful Russian people throughout our 20 years and those relationships will remain unwavering.
“It is the highest honour for our small charity to be recognised on such a scale.”
In 2016, To Russia With Love decided to expand its programmes to Ireland, re-naming the operation To Children With Love.
The charity now works to build brighter futures for Irish students affected by educational inequality in addition to helping Russian children.
The goal of the programmes is to support young people to achieve their potential in education, employment and life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row]