Participant Stories: Avril Buttle

Avril completed her Bronze & Silver awards while at Colaiste Bride in Enniscorthy, along the way she learned how to play guitar, played tag rugby, coached tennis, volunteered in a hockey club, and trekked across Oulart Hill. Moving to Dublin for college, she had trouble finding a PAL in NCAD, but after getting in touch with Gaisce, a PAL was found and she could begin her very eventful journey to getting her Gold Award. Avril’s aim was to finish her gold before she graduated from college, with the long-term goal of becoming a PAL in a school in the future.

“Gaisce has been crucial in pushing me towards the areas that I plan on focusing my career in the future”

With the help of Finola in NCAD, she volunteered with Solas, working with kids from the surrounding flats. There, she set up an art club for the kids and after several weeks their work was exhibited in NCAD. After this she became a Youth Mentor in the organisation. This involved a lot of 1-to-1 work with a 15 year old boy, called Anto. She spent a lot of time focusing on his love for art, and soon became the art co-ordinator for the group. Since working with Solas, she has worked on other projects with Finola such as the Access route to 3rd Level Education, as well as summer camps for nearby charities & organisations.

Avril was teaching people how to play piano, and had already completed her grade 8 honour cert from Royal Academy of Music, so she aimed to improve her skills for the good of her students. She got herself a teacher – recommended by the RIAM – and began her senior cert. She practiced between 1 and 3 hours every day, and as her exam approached, she practiced between 4-6 hours every day! She sat her exam in May 2014 and all her practice paid off as she received an honour from the RIAM.

Avril described her physical recreation section as “a bit of a disaster journey, but a journey nonetheless”. She had always dreamed of running a marathon, so she made a training programme for herself. After two months, she noticed pains in her ankles & knees. After a visit to the doctor, she was told that marathons were not for her. Despite this warning, she continued her running, even managing to complete a 10 mile run – finishing in pain. She continued to run with pains, until one night where she did serious damage to her knee while training. Avril found out that she tore her cruciate ligament and meniscus. 2 surgeries, and 8 months of physio rehab followed. Avril’s aim to run a marathon had changed to being able to run in 9 months. Despite all the downturns, Avril’s knee fully recovered before she was able to accept her award!

Despite being from Enniscorthy and travelling to Dublin for college, Avril felt that she deserved to finally test the Wicklow Way, having never even seen it before! Her route began in Enniskerry and finished in Tinahely. The rehab and training had put her in good condition for the hike. The incredible views of the Wicklow Way compensated for the poor weather. The last day saw them struggle to get to Tinahely but – as with most adventure journeys – the relief of finishing and the fun times are remembered more than the hardship!

For her residential project, Avril had the experience of a lifetime and volunteered abroad. After raising €2000, she was placed with Art Relief International in Northern Thailand. Every day she had to write lesson plans, brainstorm, and gather materials with the other volunteers, and proceeded to work with her assigned group. They worked 9-5 in the daytime, then explored & travelled in the night time. It was an eye-opening experience for all the volunteers. Avril had allocated herself 2 weeks for travel after a month of volunteering, but an allergic reaction to malaria tablets & mosquito bites meant she had to cut her trip short and fly home.

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