A south Armagh teenager who vowed to raise money for a charity that helped her get through a sexual abuse court case has presented them with a cheque for more than £10,000.
Ellen Moles said the support of Advocacy Vsv and its founder Niamh Quinn had stopped her from taking her own life.
The 19-year-old, who lives in Crossmaglen, started fundraising last year for the charity which supports victims of sexual violence in the Southern Trust area.
Over the past 10 months, with the help of family and friends, she has organised and taken part in number of fundraising events including a 180-mile walk along the Camino de Santiago and, most recently, a skydive.
Ellen said her aim had been to raise awareness of the charity’s services and help other people facing the often frightening experience of navigating the courts system.
Ellen, who was accompanied to the cheque presentation by her mum Aisling and dad Eamonn, believes the fundraising has also been an essential part of her healing process.
“When I first started working with Niamh I was in a very bad place. I was suicidal. Niamh has definitely been the person to save my life. There’s no other way to put it,” she said.
“After the court case, Niamh was still there, supporting me. I really struggled afterwards but I didn’t want that to be the end of my story. I wanted to turn it into something positive and gain closure in a nice way.
“I had to make a victim impact statement and Niamh had taken me to do that. At the time, I said to her ‘I’m going to jump out of a plane. I’m going to do this for you’. I’m going to raise £10,000.
“I went on the Camino and it was very tough but it wasn’t as tough as the two weeks I spent in court. I was able to let go of a lot of stuff mentally.
“My fundraising wasn’t about validating my story or what happened to me. It was to let other people know about the help that is out there.”
Niamh , who has a background in social work and now specialises in working with victims of sexual violence, said other people had come forward as a result of Ellen sharing her story.
“Ellen, for being such a young person, has shown nothing but bravery and sheer determination to raise £10,000,” she said.
“Because of her bravery in getting out there and sharing her story, other victims are picking up the phone and saying, ‘I saw that girl from Armagh. I saw what she has been doing. Can I get support too?’
“Because of Ellen, we are going to be able to expand our team and reach more victims. We are a very small charity, and just in our infancy, so for Ellen to choose us is just amazing.”
Ellen, who spoke to Armagh I in March, is currently at university, and planning to become a social worker, having been inspired in her career choice by the support of Advocacy Vsv.
She said she continues to be supported by Niamh and her family but is now “on the right path”.