Today we are celebrating the determination and motivation shown by some of Ireland's young people. 

 

Since it was set up in 1985, over 150 thousand young people have completed a Gaisce Award, including former Rose of Tralee Maria Walsh and Irish rugby international and Connaught player Robbie Henshaw. For those who don't know, the Gaisce is The President's Award and is a direct challenge from President Michael D. Higgins to young people aged 15-25 to dream big and realise their potential, push their boundaries and develop skills which will stand to them throughout their lives.

 

 The idea is that this self-development programme that is open to all young people can enhance confidence and wellbeing through dedication to personal, physical and community challenges. 

 

 

We spoke to three of those who took part about their individual experiences and what motivated them along the way.

 

1. Aoibhainn Ni Mhuimhne 

 

1. What prompted you to do your Adventure Journey?

 

I have always loved travelling and going on adventures. I'm not very good at exams and so despite being smart, I never really excelled in school. I did my Gold Gaisce in 5th and 6th year, right in the middle of my leaving very cycle, so when I saw that I had another opportunity to go outside and explore and hike through the mountains I was ecstatic. I needed little to no help or guidance with this one, any excuse to go and I was gone. It was the first part of my Gaisce I sat down and planned. 

 

2. Why did you choose the one that you did?

 

I have been a scout for about 14 years now, so there was no question that I incorporate my scouting in with my award. My scouting experiences and skills were the main reasons I decided to go for the Gold to begin with and you can always trust a scout to join you for a hike no matter how long so I knew I wouldn't have to do it alone. I wanted to do my adventure journey somewhere local because I was going to be travelling for my residential project and I live in, in my opinion, the most beautiful county in Ireland. Donegal's mountains and hiking trails are second to none.  

 

3. What were some of the challenges?

 

For me, the main challenge was time. Trying to find a set number of days that I wasn't doing something else as well as juggling my school work and studies.  I did struggle a bit on the journey itself where tiredness tried to get the better of me and I felt like giving up but my friends helped me get through it and I helped them when they went through something similar. We kept each other going. 

 

What did you learn from it? 

 

The main lesson I learned is that I can do almost anything with the help and encouragement from my friends. I completed the Gold Gaisce in just under 3 years and for the first few months, I tried to do it all by myself which I now realise wasn't the best idea. Whether it was a friend putting a blister plaster on my foot, a hug of encouragement from my mum or a 'you've got this in the bag' nod and a fist bump from a scout leader 10km from the end of my journey, the little things and the enormous amount of love and support surrounding me is what got me to the end. 

 

Do you think young people get a bad rap for not doing more? 

 

I feel like young people do get a bad rap for not doing more, but I also believe that the people who feel that way just don't understand the 'millennial' generation and how we operate.  Thousands of young people across the country volunteer with their local clubs whether it be sports, Scouting or college societies, we give hundreds of hours every week not only doing something we enjoy but also helping communities. We live in an age where more and more young people are standing up for their rights and trying to make the world a more diverse and happy place.  Sure, I agree that sometimes we should maybe put our phones down for a little while longer and appreciate the outdoors, but when hundreds and thousands of people from all over the world can get together in support of something they strongly believe in, in a matter of hours by using a simple hashtag it's hard to believe that we don't do enough or that technology is really such a bad thing. Times have changed and are still changing. 

 

What would you say to others who might be interested in setting themselves such a goal? 

 

If anyone is thinking of setting themselves a goal like this I would say 'Just go for it'. Don't over think it before you even start. You are more capable than you think you are and of course, with the support of friends and family, almost nothing is impossible. Although, it might seem a little daunting, nothing in the Gaisce is unachievable, take it day by day and week by week and before you know it you'll find yourself standing beside the president of Ireland, smiling like an idiot and feeling the most intense sense of relief and pride you have ever felt in your life! 

 

 

2. Evelyn Dore

 

 

1. What prompted you to do your Adventure Journey?

 

My adventure journey happened impromptu! I was travelling through India with my sister and friends for a little less than two months. We were up in Ladakh, the northern part of India, and so my sister and I decided to trek the Himalayas. The scenery was absolutely mind blowing and the laughs on route are almost inexplicable to put into words!

 

2. Why did you choose the one that you did?

 

Having trekked Mt. Rinjani in Indonesia amongst other difficault mountains, I chose to put the Himalayas as my official Adventure journey because it was a challenge I did with my beautiful sister Jenny and also because India is one of my favourite places! 

 

3. What were some of the challenges?

 

Altitude was one of the most difficult challenges. When you get up very high on the mountains it can be difficult to breathe at times and it can take half an hour to take even 10 steps!

 

4. What did you learn from it? 

 

The main thing I came away with is that people and nature are great! From my whole Gaisce experience, I've learned that life is pretty darn great. Mental resilience is so important and regardless of highs or lows, each experience is worthwhile. 

 

5. Do you think young people get a bad rap for not doing more? 

 

I guess as a primary school teacher I work in an extremely positively affirming environment for young people. Hence, I wouldn't think young people get a bad rap. Each and every day of work in Mercy Moyderwell Primary School, I watch children's achievements, big or small, being celebrated and rightfully so! Praise the youth and they will flourish!

 

6. What would you say to others who might be interested in setting themselves such a goal? 

Set it! Achieve it! Celebrate it! Then set it higher.... and repeat! :-)

 

3. Niamh Teeling

 

 

What prompted you to do your Adventure Journey?

 

My friend Laoise who was also undertaking the Gold award encouraged me to come on the Adventure journey with her. As part of the Gold Gaisce award Adventure Journey challenge, participants are required to hike minimum 80km over 4 nights and 5 days.

 

Why did you choose the one that you did?

 

We chose the Wicklow Way as was easy to get to from Dublin city centre, starting in Marlay Park. There are hostels along the way which we stayed in and allowed us to cook our own meals. There is good information available regarding routes and distances on the Wicklow Way too which made it convenient to plan.

 

What were some of the challenges you faced?

 

For my personal challenge, I returned to modern jazz dance classes, and performed with Whynot Dance company. For my physical challenge, I went to the gym in Trinity. For my community challenge, I volunteered as President of Student2Student society in Trinity which provides mentoring and peer support services to undergraduate students.

 

What did you learn from it? 

 

I learned that I can persevere and keep going when I put my mind to it. I also learned how important community is when volunteering at Trinity College and in India with Suas.

 

Do you think young people get a bad rap for not doing more? 

 

I think young people today are under a lot of pressure with study and work and it can be hard to find time to volunteer or for personal development. The President spoke well about the society of individualism which is becoming more prevalent, and how community engagement such as through Gaisce can help alleviate this feeling and contribute to social cohesion.

 

What would you say to others who might be interested in setting themselves such a goal? 

 

Go for it. I took 3 years to complete the challenge, but I didn't give up on my dream of achieving the Gold. So long as you're determined and register before 25, it can be done!

 

Well done to all who achieved their Gaisce! For further information about Gaisce – The President’s Award visit www.gaisce.ie

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