Speaker Biographies

Denny Elliot 

Denny Elliott is Head of Self Help Africa NI. He has been working in the Voluntary and Community Sector for 30 years at both director and senior management level.  He began life in the sector with Amnesty International before Joining Concern Worldwide and then moving on to become a Regional Manager with Save the Children Fund and then Director of Oxfam Ireland.  Denny was also Director of Fundraising and Communications with Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association for eight years.

Denny established Redsocks Consulting in 2005 specialising in Strategic Management and Capital and Income Generation. Redsocks have worked on some of the biggest capital and revenue projects in the voluntary sector such as the MAC Arts Centre Belfast, Somerton Road Adult Hospice Belfast and Horizon West Children’s Hospice in Fermanagh. During this period, Denny successfully established a ‘Friends’ of Northern Ireland group in both the House of Lords and New York and developed partnerships with some of the biggest Trusts and Foundations in the UK

Denny is now Head of Self Help Africa Northern Ireland with responsibility for the delivery of Irish Aid Funded Programmes in Teso Uganda. Denny has been a Steering Group Committee Member of ChangeMakers since 2019. Denny is a Trustee of the Human Health Project.


Cróna Gallagher

Cróna Gallagher has recently retired from her post as Director of Further Education & Training (FET) with Donegal ETB, a post she held for the last six years.

Previously, she worked as an Adult Education Officer with the ETB since 1999, during which she had responsibility for the development and delivery social inclusion programmes (including literacy, community education and Youthreach) and adult guidance services to adult learners in Donegal. She is a former chairperson of the ETBI Active Inclusion Strategy Group.

In the 1980s, Cróna worked with International Voluntary Service (IVS) in Swaziland, where she helped rural women establish an economic development & education co-operative; there she formed an interest in development education which led to her involvement in ChangeMakers.



Denise McCool

Denise is the Team Lead for Community Development & Environment at the Inishowen Development Partnership. Returning from the US to Inishowen in the 1990s where she had worked first as Director of Communications at the Irish Immigration Centre, and then as Volunteer Coordinator at WGBH TV & Radio, she set up the social economy programme and also established the first Immigrant outreach programme within Inishowen.  Denise set up the community food initiative within IDP and has been involved in the Envision Inishowen series, migrant supports, arts programmes, community education programmes, wellbeing and environmental projects and networks, and a number of EU projects.


Denise worked initially with schools across Inishowen on development education and active citizenship. As a founding member of ChangeMakers, Denise has been a member of the ChangeMakers Steering Committee since its inception. Denise is a former board member of Fairtrade Ireland, the Playhouse Theatre, a founding member of Beyond Borders and North-55, a member of IDEA and Community Education Network, Aontas. She has also been involved in setting up local networks such as IFAN, ISEN and the IFAN MICA subgroup.





Patsy Toland

Patsy Toland is an Independent Global Education Consultant. A former Education Coordinator with Self Help Africa, he widely travelled in East Africa, coordinated numerous Global Education projects with Irish Schools, School networks and teacher training. Patsy is founder of the Science for Development Award at the BT Young Scientist.

Founder member of Changemakers and part time facilitator with ChangeMaker projects, such as the Elder Tree project. Founder member of the Irish Development Education Association (IDEA) and chair for six  years. Member of the Steering Group of www.developmenteducation.ie and recipient of Concern Silver Medal Volunteer Award 2022.

Patsy is also Artistic advisor for the Seamus Grant Festival of traditional music, a Musician, a Gardener, a photographer and Grandfather.


Bébhinn Mullins

Bébhinn Mullins is currently the manager of our Clonmany Community Centre, Donegal which is the vibrant heart of the local community. The Centre has been working alongside a national social enterprise FoodCloud since 2018, helping to place a focus on food waste. During COVID, Bébhinn understood a course in Global Development with ChangeMakers. This influenced Bébhinn to think about food miles and the impact this has on the planet.  “Clonmany Community Pantry” was officially launched in March 2020.

This initiative has naturally developed into a powerful community project helping to highlight more sustainable food choices whilst helping to combat food wastage. Through its connection with FoodCloud, the Centre has collected and redistributed over 7000 kg of food (the equivalent of almost 17,000 meals) and has almost 23,000 kg of CO2 savings just under two years later, in February 2022.

Clonmany Community Pantry has created interest from community organisations around Ireland. Following a connection made via a Clonmany based volunteer who was a student at NUI Galway, the Student Pantry at NUI Galway was launched in March 2022. The Student Pantry now lead by the students, will help us to tackle food waste in other universities around Ireland. A new project, “Your Community Pantry -connecting people, produce and planet” is currently under development and will be rolled out nationally.





Maria Riordan

Maria Riordan is an Education Officer in Irish Aid in the Department of Foreign Affairs. She is the first Education Officer from outside the formal education sector. Prior to her current role Maria spent 20 years working in Adult and Community Education firstly in the Prison Education Service in Mountjoy and Wheatfield prisons and in the last 17 years leading adult basic education programmes in the inner city of Dublin.


Maria has managed a number of projects in that time including developing curriculum for literacy and language students, managing a Recognition of Prior Learning programme for the CDETB and leading the education programme within the Oireachtas Work and Learn (OWL) project in Leinster House.


Maria is the Education Officer with specific responsibility for Youth, Adult and Community Sector and is the Desk Officer for ChangeMakers.




Catherine Friel

Catherine Friel is a Community Education Facilitator for the Community Education Support Programme of Donegal Education and Training Board’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service. Her key responsibilities include planning, development, and management of the local Community Education programme.  She supports new and existing community-based learning groups in the form of technical, administrative, and educational inputs.

Previously she worked with the Research and Policy Unit of Donegal County Council in the development of a strategic action plan for the implementation of the LEADER programme in Donegal.   She was also Project Co-ordinator of Tuath, Donegal Community & Local Development Centre based in Letterkenny Institute of Technology for over ten years.  During this time, she managed and established a series of training programmes, from pre-development to degree level, tailored to meet the needs of the community and voluntary sector.  It included the development of a BA in Community Development, the first of its kind in the county.

Catherine has been a member of the Steering Group of ChangeMakers for the past six years.


Joanne Butler 

Joanne Butler is Development Officer with ChangeMakers since 2020. She has been a panel member since undertaking a development education course with ChangeMakers in 2014. In her capacity as Development Officer, Joanne co-facilitates our environmental projects, oversees our Seeds of Change and mentoring projects and works with the Fairtrade groups in Donegal.


Joanne also runs a social enterprise called ‘OURganic Gardens’ that she started in 2013 by facilitating horticulture and community garden classes with community groups aided by Donegal ETB and the local authority. Through her teaching she has worked with over 25 community gardens throughout the county and beyond. Her business has won awards with Save Our Planet, the Irish Food Writers Guild, JCI and has previously been shortlisted with a Star award through Aontas – the National Adult Learning Organisation.


In 2017, Joanne and her husband started to create OURganic Gardens HOME which is a four-acre site in Gortahork, where they run workshops on growing vegetables and designing food and permaculture gardens.  She has since completed a business mentorship on the ACORNS programme for Women in Ireland as business entrepreneurs and has worked throughout her community in other environmental projects such as VOICE recycling ambassadors, Cool Planet Champions, and Grow Ambassadors for Ireland. Since Covid, she has taught over 700 online participants from her potting shed and OURganic Gardens has become one of sixteen lighthouse farms in Ireland with the Soil Biodiversity Literacy and Enhancement EIP Project with Talamh Beo.




Myra McAuliffe

Myra McAuliffe is Project Coordinator at ChangeMakers Donegal. Having served as Head of Communications at the Abbey Theatre for seven years, she made a change in recent years, relocating with her young family to Inishowen, Co. Donegal. Myra joined ChangeMakers in April 2022. She coordinates the ChangeMakers programme of activities from the Inishowen Development Partnership in Buncrana.

In recent years, Myra worked at Ulster University Magee on the Derry & Strabane City Deal project in collaboration with Derry City and Strabane District Council. Also at Ulster University, she worked on the Youth, Peace and Security Leadership Seminar Series in a partnership between Ulster University INCORE, The John & Pat Hume Foundation, the International Fund for Ireland and Interpeace. Myra has served on the Board of the Playhouse Theatre, Derry since 2018.

Myra recently successfully completed the CITIZEN NI programme, an initiative developed by the National University of Ireland at Galway and University of Cambridge, accredited by Ulster University at Magee, Derry, and funded by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.



Don is a speaker, teacher, and student of regenerative agriculture and regenerative lifestyles. He applies his lifelong knowledge advising Kiss the Ground, teaching and supporting course development for various Kiss the Ground education initiatives, including the Soil Advocate Training course. His talks are engaging, inspiring, and filled with hands-on, viable solutions to the world’s largest problems.

Sikhanyisile Dube

Sikhanyisile Dube, originally from Zimbabwe and now living in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, is an insurance professional with a passionate about climate change and sustainability. Sikhanyisile has worked with ChangeMakers, during 2022, to successfully deliver talks about the effects of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa, on both International Women’s Day and the recent Africa Day celebration which took place in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. She recently completed a study of the “Impact of technology and hybrid working on climate change and the Green Deal milestones achieved in Ireland” through the EY Work Placement Programme.

Sikhanyisile has worked as a trainer and facilitator in the insurance sector in South Africa for over 10 years, developing training content and delivering training programmes in Insurance practices. With a Degree in Risk Management and Insurance, she has coached and mentored youths entering the financial services sector from High School by preparing and delivering work-readiness programmes. She is also an accredited assessor with the Insurance Education and Training Authority (INSETA) in South Africa. Having recently undertaken the Regulation and Life Assurance exams, she is pursuing an accreditation as an Accredited Product Advisor (APA) in Life Assurance.




Roisin O’Hara

Roisin is currently the NW Representative and Outreach Manager for Trócaire NI, overseeing their Advocacy and Campaigns, Fundraising Outreach and Development Education work in the northern region of the country.

Having previously worked in Education and Marketing in Barcelona for a number of years, Roisin has worked in the International Development (INGO) Sector for the past 16 years.  Prior to returning to Ireland in 2012 to work with Trócaire, she worked in London with CAFOD as a member of their Latin America team, supporting community organisations across Latin America and the Caribbean.

In her role as NW Representative for Trócaire, Roisin has been engaging with Changemakers for a number of years, previously hosting joint workshops on common areas of work such as Climate Change, Human Rights and Sustainability.  She joined the ChangeMakers Steering Committee in March 2021.


Makey Uppers

Sorcha Shanahan and Gemma Walker-Farren are ‘MakeyUppers’, an original comedy storytelling act. They use their skills as performers, facilitators and theatre makers to create dynamic and involving storytelling. They aim to engage their audiences in experiences that are multi-layered, highly enjoyable and beautifully simple.

The ‘MakeyUppers’ work is hugely diverse and ever changing but always rooted in a mutual desire to create meaningful work through play.

They perform multi-disciplinary, high-energy, comedy shows as well as interactive, intergenerational storytelling workshops, a range of walkabout characters and bespoke workshop/performance packages for community and corporate events.






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