The second Loreto College Social Responsibility Awards evening took place recently. This biannual event involves members of the Loreto family nominating worthy recipients, who have gone that ‘extra mile’ and made a real difference in their own communities or further afield.

The Sports Hall was decked out in appropriate finery, musicians played and refreshments were provided, as award winners and guests mixed amiably on a warm sunny evening. Opening proceedings, Principal Peter McGhee welcomed everyone and referred to his long association both with the college and with Catholic education in Manchester generally. He reminded the audience that this was Loreto’s opportunity to recognise in a formal way the often unsung achievements of so many of the wider Loreto family.

These reflections were echoed by the guest speaker, Gulwali Passarlay, who enthralled the audience with his account of a journey, both literal and metaphorical, that took him from a happy childhood in Afghanistan, to a flat in Manchester and the status of an asylum seeker. Gulwali emphasised the fact that no one chooses to be a refugee and he asked the audience to consider the dilemma of his mother, having to send two teenage children on a perilous journey half way across the world. Now a successful student and published author of a fascinating memoir (The Lightless Sky) Gulwali spoke passionately of the empowering impact of education on the lives of young people.

There then followed a procession of truly remarkable, mostly young, people, either highly commended or winners of the various categories. The audience heard of numerous charitable endeavours in the Manchester area, focused on the under represented and vulnerable, sometimes working through faith organisations but often simply the altruistic acts of caring young people. There was recognition for the coordinator of the college Oxbridge programme, for those staff who undertook the trip to Kolkata to work with the Loreto sisters, and those who provide leadership and inspiration on the pilgrimage to Lourdes each year. There was praise for staff members who work tirelessly to support those of our students who are experiencing difficulties in their lives and have to overcome numerous barriers in order to achieve success.

The presentation of two special awards rounded off the evening. Sister Orla Treacy has taken the Loreto message and mission to one of the most troubled and impoverished areas of the world, South Sudan. She is the chief administrator of the Loreto Rumbek Mission in Maker Kuei, overseeing a boarding secondary school for girls, a co-educational primary school, and a women and child-centric primary healthcare facility. Despite the devastating consequences of war in Rumbek, and the many barriers to women and girls in the community, Sister Orla remains filled with hope and the Loreto schools stand as a beacon of light for future South Sudanese generations. A special award was also presented to the recently retired Sean Gaughan. Deputy Principal Andrea Pritchard paid generous tribute to Sean, highlighting his years of loyal service to Loreto, in particular overseeing the massive rebuilding project, his unstinting support of his colleagues, and the wit and sagacity that he always displayed.

This truly inspirational evening, organised with great efficiency by Alison Benson, represents a small, but heartfelt, acknowledgement of the selfless good works carried out by so many members of the wider Loreto family.