Belfast Telegraph

Top award for Northern Ireland woman whose life was transformed by foster families

Hollie George will be honoured tonight with the inaugural president’s award by the Fostering Network
Hollie George will be honoured tonight with the inaugural president’s award by the Fostering Network
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

She faced an uncertain future after being taken into foster care with her younger brother.

But 15 years later Hollie George (24) is being honoured by the Fostering Network as a shining example of the difference fostering can make to a young person's life.

Tonight she will receive the network's inaugural president's award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to fostering.

"I'm not really sure what I've done to deserve this. I'm just a normal girl," said Hollie.

Moving into the care of Strabane couple Trevor and Heather at nine years of age changed her life, her younger brother's life and the lives of the people she simply now calls "mum and dad".

"I'm not going to pretend things were easy at the start. It was scary, but I learnt to open myself up, let people care about me and help me," she said.

"Since then I've just been determined to seize every opportunity."

After spending much of her early life caring for her brother, Hollie had always been clear they "come as a package", and she remains devoted to him, but now she has a bigger family to help.

A struggle through primary school - she missed a whole year - had set her early education back, but that was soon a distant memory.

Hollie went on to become deputy head girl at Strabane High School (now Strabane Academy), and always with the encouragement of her parents.

A degree in sociology and criminology followed at Ulster University in 2017.

Now settled with her boyfriend in Newtownabbey, a career with PwC's financial crime department in Belfast has taken off.

"I don't have enough words for the people who have helped me in my life," she said.

"My foster parents had three children of their own when me and my brother arrived, but we quickly became part of the family. It's been like that ever since.

"They gave me the base to build from and hopefully I've managed to do them proud."

"Mum and dad" will be proud again when Hollie is honoured as an example of just what a difference fostering can make at the ceremony in Malone House tonight.

"I was shocked and I think I still am a bit," she said after hearing that she was to receive the award.

"As far as I see it, I've been given an opportunity to make a life for myself, surrounded by a network of wonderful people, a wonderful family, and that's what I've tried to do."

Hollie is now hopeful of repaying the system by becoming a foster parent herself.

"I've already talked about that possibility with my boyfriend. It's something we'd both like to do in the future," she added.

Libby Thornhill, president of the Fostering Network, said she hoped Hollie's award will show the importance of foster care in providing a stable, caring home for those in need.

"Hollie has consistently supported her local health and social care trust and the Fostering Network in demonstrating the importance of a stable, loving foundation to enable a child to reach their full potential," she said.

"Hollie is a great role model to young people and an inspiration to all of us."

At least 250 new foster families are needed in Northern Ireland this year to provide stable, secure and caring homes for children, according to figures released by the Fostering Network this week.

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