657. Andy Mahoney
Andy Mahoney established Europe’s first specialist holiday centre for children with special needs and their families or carers in Portugal.
Andy runs a successful business providing transport to and from schools for disabled children. He was frustrated to see that, while mainstream schools provide travel experiences far and wide for their students, these opportunities are denied to youngsters with special needs, as there are not adequate facilities abroad. He was inspired to set up ‘Centre Algarve’ in the beautiful Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. The 14-bedroom resort is fully equipped to allow people with special needs, young and old, to experience foreign cultures and adventures in a safe environment.
In a personal letter to Andy, Prime Minister Theresa May said:
“The ‘Centre Algarve’ you set up is supporting people with special needs and their families to be able to enjoy the experience of visiting a foreign culture in a safe environment.
“Across the world British volunteers like you are helping to build a better world for everyone. The Point of Light award is a small thank you on behalf of the whole country, in recognition of your exceptional service.”
“I’m honoured to receive a Points of Light Award. It is recognition not only for me but for all the volunteers and staff that have helped to make the Centre Algarve such a special place. Our aim to develop a safe, secure holiday centre in mainland Europe enabling families, schools and groups with special needs to holiday in the knowledge that they have a safe environment with the facility’s they require, has been made possible with the help and dedication of a great management team and over 600 volunteers. The 24×7 Special Needs Holiday Trust, with the help of some very special people, will continue the work of enabling people to have a holiday that they could not normally have.
“To have had so many people involved has been truly inspiring, and on behalf of myself and all of the users of Centre Algarve, both past and future, I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone that has joined in the dream, and made it a reality.”
Ambassador to Portugal, Kirsty Hayes, said:
“I’m delighted that Andy’s work has been recognised in this way. For over ten years, Andy has been working with special needs children. With the Centre Algarve – the first of its kind in Europe – his inspiration has galvanised the extraordinary support of many volunteers from the Algarve and beyond. It is truly a remarkable initiative and the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award is a fitting tribute to Andy’s vision and dedication.”