Denis O’Brien is a firm believer in giving back and helping people and their communities achieve their highest potential. From a young age, O’Brien’s mother made him aware of and taught him about compassion for the developing world, raising him with the moral and ethical values to help others. These values today have provided him with an obligation, he says, to the developing world and those who are less fortunate, resulting in a commitment to reinvest his profits into projects to help those in need.

Digicel Foundation

Denis O’Brien founded the Digicel Foundation in 2004. As its patron, he has funded numerous community programmes and social projects in Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Papua New Guinea. Under O’Brien’s supervision, the Foundation has helped millions of people and completed thousands of projects and interventions, particularly in the areas of education and the special needs community.

Port au Prince Iron Market
Port au Prince Iron Market

Restoration of the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince

After an earthquake devastated Haiti in January of 2010, Denis O’Brien and the Digicel Foundation went to work helping the country recover. One of these projects included rebuilding the city of Port-au-Prince’s beloved landmark and business hub, the Iron Market. Recognised by the city for his humanitarianism, O’Brien was awarded the title of Goodwill Ambassador.

Over 188 Schools Built in Haiti

In 2006, Denis O’Brien and the Digicel Foundation began what would become an ongoing commitment to build hundreds of schools throughout the country of Haiti. After delivering on the initial promise of 20 schools, the Foundation committed to an additional 130 schools after the devastating 2010 earthquake. After the 150th school was completed, plans were made for an additional 25 to be built. The Foundation’s goal continues to grow with each milestone. Because of these efforts, 100,000 children have an opportunity to attend school throughout Haiti.

children in Haiti go to school each day thanks to Digicel.

Digicel Foundation stadium
A group of students at a Digicel Foundation school campus in Haiti

children in Haiti go to school each day thanks to Digicel.

We want to do the best we can for the people of Haiti ... and we do that by investing in their education, because a solid education becomes the foundation for Haiti's bright future."

More than 500 Classrooms Built in Papua New Guinea

The Digicel Foundation dedicates 60% of its annual budget to classroom projects. Since its inception, O’Brien and the Foundation have made it their mission to improve educational infrastructure and create proper learning environments for children in schools. The result of this is the construction and opening of more than 500 classrooms in Papua New Guinea’s rural communities. These projects have provided children in these remote areas with access to education.

The Digicel Foundation has invested
$22 million
USD in Papua New Guinea
A group of students in Papua New Guinea, where the Digicel Foundation has built more than 500 classrooms in rural communities
The Digicel Foundation has invested
$22 million
USD in Papua New Guinea
Operation SAFE Mode logo

Operation SAFE Mode

Beginning in May of 2020, the Digicel Foundation launched a J$42 million COVID-19 response programme, “Operation SAFE Mode.” The project’s focus is to Sanitise, Advocate, Feed and Enable as it works to protect the vulnerable citizens of Jamaica during the pandemic. Along with the Foundation, O’Brien has overseen programmes that promote social distancing, food distributions and donations of tablets for online education purposes. Foundation volunteers also took part in deep-cleaning and sanitisation projects in Downtown Kingston.

Humanitarian Work

Iris O’Brien Foundation

Funded by Denis O’Brien and named after his mother, the Iris O’Brien Foundation was set up in 2000 to support local and overseas charities. The Foundation focuses on advocating for human rights, disaster aid, assisting those with special needs, educational programmes and the promotion of art. Additionally, it provides aid packages to disadvantaged communities in Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East and Ireland.

O’Brien describes his mother as someone who was passionate about supporting causes that supported rights for the individual. According to O’Brien, she encouraged their family to understand and feel responsibility for the developing world.

Iris O'Brien Foundation logo

Special Olympics Ireland

Denis O’Brien serves as Chairman of Special Olympics Ireland’s Council of Patrons. The Council was founded for the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, hosted by Ireland, and is still active today. O’Brien and the Council together organised what is today still regarded as the most successful World Summer Games, kicking off with an impressive opening ceremony in Dublin’s Croke Park featuring celebrity participants like Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, U2 and actor Colin Farrell. O’Brien recalls his experience at the opening ceremony of the 2003 Special Olympics, which hosted 80,000 athletes and families, as one of his most memorable moments.

Concern Worldwide US

Starting in the 2000s and throughout the 2010s, Denis O’Brien worked closely with Concern Worldwide US, a humanitarian organisation dedicated to helping developing countries and sending aid to impoverished communities throughout the world. In 2010, O’Brien contributed to Concern Worldwide’s emergency response to the Haiti earthquake. Originally formed in Ireland in 1968, Concern Worldwide expanded its areas of operation to include a U.S. branch.

Digicel Foundation volunteers provide natural disaster aid to residents of Haiti

Haiti Action Network

In 2009, Denis O’Brien was elected Chairman of the Clinton Global Initiative’s Haiti Action Network, an organisation formed to address the damages caused by hurricanes, and eventually, the massive 2010 earthquake that had devastated the country of Haiti. In addition to building over 188 schools and providing education for 100,00 children each day in Haiti through his own Digicel Foundation, he also drove donor commitments to country-wide reconstruction efforts overseeing progress to ensure commitments were delivered. O’Brien received various recognitions for his efforts in Haiti, including the Clinton Global Citizen Award, the National Order of Honour and Merit and the title of Goodwill Ambassador.

Support for Educational Institutions

Education has always been a primary focus of Denis O’Brien’s philanthropic efforts.
This focus has also been applied to his alma maters.

The O’Brien Centre for Science at University College Dublin (UCD), gifted by and named after him, was donated to benefit the College of Science at UCD and help grow a scientific community there. O’Brien graduated from UCD in 1977 with a BA in History, Politics and Logic.

O’Brien also established the O’Brien Fellowship at Boston College Carroll School of Management. Under this scholarship, individuals pursuing full-time MBA degrees receive full financial coverage for tuition, books, fees, living expenses and international travel for the duration of their MBA programme, with preference given to students from Ireland. O’Brien himself completed an MBA in Corporate Finance at Boston College in 1982.

Additionally, O’Brien has made generous contributions to buildings, scholarships and programmes at Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University.