- Catherine Irwin recognised for 30+ years of dedicated service to girls and young women as a Girlguiding volunteer
- Honoured for leading the charity through a period of radical change as it embarks on a new strategy to serve even more girls and young women
Catherine Irwin MBE, of County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, has been recognised in The Queen’s New Year Honours for her work, which has made a significant impact on girls’ lives through her 30 years’ volunteering with Girlguiding.
A member since joining as a Guide, Catherine went onto become a Guide Leader after achieving her Queen’s Guide award. She has held numerous and varied Girlguiding roles including being a British Youth Council delegate, outdoor adviser, district commissioner, county commissioner, and Girlguiding Ulster trustee. She has also served on the World Association of Girl Guides and Guide Scouts strategy and planning committee, who developed their current strategy.
Appointed as Girlguiding’s UK Chair of the Board in 2018, Catherine’s voluntary contribution includes bringing her senior corporate experience to the role and leading the charity’s new strategy to ensure it serves girls and young women into the future with a fun and exciting, relevant and rewarding youth offer.
During the coronavirus crisis, Catherine led the continuance of strong governance for the charity, ensuring it adapted to the new circumstances. When the pandemic began to disrupt face-to-face guiding in March, Girlguiding rapidly developed its Adventures At Home online offer with a focus on supporting girls’ and young women’s wellbeing. Highlights for young members have been a virtual summer festival and a virtual winter pantomime.
Through Catherine’s leadership roles in guiding at district, county, national, UK and global levels, she has worked to increase membership so more girls can benefit from guiding. Catherine has consistently supported girls through her local Guide and Ranger units over the years as well as taking on roles to support other volunteers and to connect girls at home with those from nations across the world to share experiences, learn from each other and have fun together.
Under Catherine’s leadership of Girlguiding’s Board of Trustees, the charity has taken bold steps to increase the diversity of the Board, revitalise its offer for girls and young women, improve its support service for its 100,000 volunteers, and to keep the safety of members its number one priority. Around for over 100 years, the charity launched its new strategy at the start of 2020 with a goal to ensure it can offer the fun, friendship, skills, and life-changing opportunities guiding can bring to even more and greater diversity of girls across the UK.
Catherine Irwin, MBE, Chair of the Board of Trustees said on receiving the honour:
“I am extremely proud to receive this award from Her Majesty the Queen. The work we do at Girlguiding helps and supports nearly 400,000 girls and young women across the UK and it is has been an enriching and rewarding experience to work with so many young members over the years and see the difference guiding makes to their lives.
“Girlguiding opens up so many fantastic opportunities for girls to grow in confidence and become a powerful force for good in their communities. I would like to dedicate this award to all the girls I’ve had the pleasure of knowing over the last 30 years.”
Catherine has also been an active member of her local community over many years. In particular, Catherine’s love of music has led her to support people in her community to thrive through music, both instrumental and choral.