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Posted by Kinsale Advertiser on Thursday 26 March 2015

Three Cork schoolgirls, who have won international recognition for their research on how to tackle the global food crisis, were honoured by President Michael D Higgins at a reception in Áras an Uachtaráin on Wednesday March 25th. Separately they were thanked by Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International charity for using part of their prize money to save the life of a 14-month-old baby girl in Eastern Ukraine.
Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow, pupils of Kinsale Community School, won the 2013 BT Young Scientist of the Year award; the 2014 Google Science Global Research Competition and were named by Time magazine as being among “the most influential teenagers in the world”.
Their research, triggered by shocking images of famine in East Africa, focused on trying to find ways of boosting crop production and yields by using bacteria found in the soil. Their breakthrough discovery showed that Diazotroph, a naturally-occurring bacteria, can accelerate the germination of crops like barley and oats by 50 per cent and boost barley yields by up to 74 per cent.
Judges in both the BT and Google Science Competitions acclaimed the work of the three Kinsale students as ground-breaking and Time magazine said, “This advance could play a crucial role in solving the global food crisis”. Their success in the Google Science competition won them a $50,000 prize and a $25,000 scholarship.
One of the three girls, Ciara Judge, immediately donated €1,000 from her share of the prize money to Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International (CCI). Ciara said she was anxious to use part of her prize-money to help the charity continue its work with children in the Chernobyl region.
“My family has had a longstanding connection with CCI. They have encouraged us kids to be conscious of others in need and the importance of ‘paying it forward’. This is why I decided to share my good fortune and sponsor a heart operation,” said Ciara.
Ciara’s donation went directly into CCI’s Cardiac Programme of “Flying Doctors” where a team of international cardiac surgeons flew into Eastern Ukraine last month to carry out urgently needed operations on babies in the region suffering from genetic heart defects. Because of Ciara’s generosity, baby Katya (14 months) received a life-saving surgery and is now making a full recovery.
Voluntary CEO of CCI Adi Roche said, “We want to join with the President in congratulating the girls on their extraordinary international success and also to add our special thanks to Ciara for so generously sharing part of her prize money with CCI. It is such a thoughtful and inspiring gesture for three young girls who have already shown such concern and compassion in wanting to tackle some of the crises which face our planet.
“Ciara, Émer and Sophie can be very proud of their achievements. Ciara’s donation demonstrates so much compassion and humanity at such a young age. It is wonderful to see and I am confident that with girls like this, the future is in good hands.”