How often do you hear it said that young people don’t do things anymore, that they constantly have their heads stuck in their phones or are playing computer games? Well tomorrow, the 6th of December, 56 pretty inspirational young people are going to show that that’s not the case when 56 of them will be presented with a Gold Gaisce Award by the President in Dublin Castle. Between them, they have committed over 12,000 hours to achieving their award!
Each has successfully completed five challenge areas for 52 weeks or more – volunteering with a charity or community group, developing an existing skill or learned something new, became more active through sport or exercise, took part in a four-day adventure journey discovering the great outdoors as part of a team, and broadened their horizons on a five day residential stay away from home.
Aaron Fallon Awarded Gaisce Gold
One of these is LGBT community member Aaron Fallon. Aaron is involved with Ballymun Regional Youth Resource Centre and already has his Bronze and Silver Award. Aaron took up crocheting in his local community to learn a new skill but he says the gossip from the local ladies kept the class interesting!
Aaron found the Adventure Journey most challenging but that’s exactly what Gaisce is about – a challenge for yourself. It’s an opportunity to try something new and to step outside your comfort zone. He trekked from Greystones to Swords over a number of days with a friend.
For his Residential Project, he volunteered at the Aisling Transition Project supporting primary school children at a residential in Trabolgin. Aaron is now paying it forward and is a trained PAL (President’s Award Leader) and is supporting young people in the Ballymun area to begin their Gaisce journey.
We spoke to Aaron to find out more about his Gaisce experience.
As a young LGBT+ person, how have the Gaisce awards helped you feel part of your local community?
This question is my favourite and I think the best way to answer it both yes and no. Yes, it has with the way that it helps people understand that, as an LGBT young person, I can do the physical challenges just like any other Gaisce participants and that I can also help older people who I have worked with on my journey to understand what it is like as an LGBT+ youth.
I also say no, because Ballymun is a marvellous community to live in and I have the great luck of being part of a community full of multiple nationalities and cultures. Being LGBT+ no matter what age you are or what you do has got its challenges but I am hopeful that by doing Gaisce and having such amazing people help me along the way that I have broken down some of the stigmatisms towards the LGBT+ community and that other youth can feel free to be who they are and share that with the world.
How did you get involved in Gaisce?
I got involved in Bronze Gaisce when I was in 4th year of secondary school (*many years ago*) and we did it as part of our school year. When I was in 5th year I did my Silver and then took a break. I started my Gold Gaisce journey in 2016 which has led me to become a PAL (President’s Award Leader) and I have since been sharing my experiences with everyone I meet.
Do you have any advice for any LGBT youth who are thinking about getting involved in Gaisce?
To go for it… to not hold back, yes it can be difficult at times but you can space it over a long period of time. That Gaisce can change you for the better, it is such an amazing programme, allowing you meet so many different people along the way who you can strike up lifelong friendships with.
You will enjoy every second of it and it will only better you for the future. It is such an amazing achievement to make on any level from Bronze to Gold
You trekked from Greystones to Swords, which is really impressive! What was your biggest learning from that experience?
It was tough, I took an unconventional route in that I planned my own Gaisce Adventure (walk/hike). As I say that I loved every minute of it I had so much support from all of my friends and family, the local youth centres and my PAL.
I got to take in some of the great sights of the Irish seafront and spent my time with a friend of mine who was also doing his Silver Gaisce while he helped me along the way. Of course, I did pull muscles in my ankle and that was painful but I would do it over and over again for the fun and the memories I made.
Are there any skills you have gained from your Gaisce journey that will help you in the future?
Most definitely, I was already able to organise and plan but with my journey, I have gained hiking skills, tested out and tried my hand at crochet, which is a skill I never thought I would try to learn but I loved every minute of it. I have also improved the skills I have such as teamwork, money management and timekeeping, to mention a few.
What has it been like being a PAL for younger people in Ballymun?
It is amazing being a PAL, to be completely honest I feel that it is just the next step in my Gaisce journey and I hope to help other young people from every walk of life in making memories the way I made mine.
As a PAL I have a challenge ahead of me but I know that Gaisce will be there to support me the way they have been for all of my Gaisce awards and journeys to date.
25,000 young people registered to take part in 2017 and Gaisce’s aim is that 35,000 young people will register each year by 2020, the 35th anniversary of Gaisce so that every young person has the opportunity to participate in the programme and realise their dreams and ambitions.
If you would like to start your own Gaisce journey, you can find out more on their website.
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