Cabinteely volunteer scoops National Volunteer Award for CoderDojo

by Rebecca Ryan

A Cabinteely woman has won the National Volunteer Ireland Award, in the Children and Youth category, for her commitment to help kids with coding with CoderDojo.

CoderDojo is a global movement of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people. Anyone aged seven to seventeen can visit a Dojo where they can learn to code, build a website, create an app or a game, and explore technology in an informal, creative, and social environment.

Sandra Maguire set up one of the first CoderDojo’s in Ireland and has introduced hundreds of local children to coding since.

She has been running CoderDojo in Dún Laoghaire since 2013, and the demand is now huge for the programme. Sandra told Dublin Gazette she is “delighted” with the win at The Volunteer Ireland Awards, which are now in their 12th year, and said that CoderDojo is a “team effort.”

“I’m absolutely delighted!

“I set up CoderDojo in Dún Laoghaire in early 2013 having heard James Whelton, founder, talk about it at a Web Summit event in 2012.

“[Dun Laoghaire Institute Of Art Design and Technology] agreed to give free space on Wednesday evenings, I set up a Twitter account and it went from there – people offered to help out as Mentors and we started with 35 kids – only three girls!

“Since then I’ve learned a lot. We’ve grown to two sessions a week now, with Sunday morning sessions in METNS.

“By now, hundreds of local children have been to CoderDojo Dún Laoghaire, most at our weekly sessions but some at various pop-up events we’ve had and I’m glad to say that demand from girls is much, much higher now!

“It’s very much a team effort, and while I do most of the admin stuff and a bit of mentoring, the award reflects the collective effort of the wonderful Mentors of CoderDojo Dún Laoghaire.

“I’m absolutely delighted to win, as I hope it will help highlight the work of Volunteers with CoderDojo all over Ireland.”

Sandra said they have a waitlist of over 600 email addresses, and she would love to see another Dojo start in the area.

Sandra is also chairperson of CoderDojo Ireland and for the last five years, she has been on the Implementation Team for Coolest Projects, the world’s leading Technology Fair for young people, which takes place in the RDS every year.

Speaking about Sandra’s win, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Volunteer Centre Manager, Claire Caroll said: “We are lucky to have volunteers like Sandra in our community. Sandra is passionate about supporting young people – not just introducing them to coding but helping them build confidence and develop important life skills.

“Volunteers are often unseen but the contribution they make to Irish society is immense. These awards give us a chance to say thank you and celebrate the difference volunteers make every day.”

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