“I think the biggest thing we all probably miss is our freedom”.

Gaisce participant Orla Leahy from Cork is no stranger to challenges having completed her Bronze and Silver Awards. She’s currently going for her Gold Award while busily studying for her Leaving Certificate. Here she writes about the new challenge we are all facing – Covid -19 – and how ‘Gaisce at Home’ is providing a welcome distraction from current restrictions


What’s the toughest thing about being at home?

The toughest thing right now is not being able to see my friends and extended family, especially my grandparents. I would have visited my grandparents regularly.

What do you miss the most?

I think the biggest thing we all probably miss is our freedom. I had just passed my driving test before the current restrictions were put in place. I was extremely lucky to be able to do my test, and to pass, but it’s been a bit anticlimactic not being able to drive anywhere. It’s such a rite of passage to learn to drive in the first place. I was hoping to drive to the gym and swimming pool to undertake the Physical Recreation challenge area for Gaisce, but now I’m confined to doing all my Gaisce at home. You really have to get creative!

How are you staying active and engaged?

I’m currently studying for my Leaving Cert which is taking up a lot of time of course, but I’m making sure I’m taking lots of breaks. My family created two raised beds in the garden where we’re growing things like onions, courgettes and herbs. We’ve also built a greenhouse which has been very a very exciting project as we’ll be able to grow things from seed.

I’m making sure I keep up with other things I love too like my GAA skills. Before the outbreak, I used to train the local U12 girls football team, which I miss doing an awful lot.

How is doing Gaisce helping you right now?

I find doing Gaisce has been a welcome distraction as it’s something else to focus on other than the Leaving Cert and the current restrictions. It’s hard when you’re at home all the time to stay positive, but I’m finding working towards my Gold Award keeps me motivated and gives me something to look forward to. Gaisce for me is a way of promoting positive mental health and I think it’s bringing an air of normality to daily life which I welcome wholeheartedly!

I’ve had to change two of my Challenge Areas due to the current restrictions, my Community Involvement and my Physical Recreation. For my Community Involvement I was training the local U12 girls in Gaelic football, but now I’m knitting for the Innocent Big Knit for Age Action Ireland. My mom has been knitting too, so it’s something we can do together. My nana taught both of us how to knit which is nice as it brings her closer to us even though we can’t see each other.

I’ve had to change my Physical Recreation from gym work and swimming to Joe Wicks classes. They’re easy to follow along with and my family join in too which is good, because we’re not able to do our usual exercise.

Luckily, I’ve been able to keep up my Photography for my personal skill. I’ve been editing photos I’ve taken on my laptop, which is very relaxing and another way I can unwind these days.

How are friends coping with the restrictions?

I think myself and my friends are doing the best we can to support each other right now. We’re all in the same boat, so it’s easy to empathise. We’ve been doing a lot of video chatting and helping each other with studying. The other day we managed to play Cluedo via Facetime which was really good fun. Not being able to see each other is really having an impact. None of us have ever experienced anything like this before. We’re all trying to stay optimistic.

Three friends and I had been planning our Gold Adventure Journey for this summer in the South of England. Unfortunately, it’s very unlikely that that will go ahead, but we’re adamant we make alternatives. It may be next year or going on an Adventure in Ireland instead, but having something to look forward to beyond the Leaving Cert and Covid 19 restrictions is of huge benefit to all of us.

What are you doing to stay safe?

I implore all young people to stay safe, to follow the HSE guidelines which are so straightforward. In terms of watching the news, I think it’s good to take a break from it or to keep watching it to a minimum. While it’s important to keep informed, I think too much can have a negative impact on our wellbeing. Also, it’s important to ensure you’re getting your news from trusted sources. At home, we’re making sure we look at some of the positive news stories that are being shared online to remind ourselves that there’s still great things happening out there and lots of solidarity among communities.

What else do you recommend?

Otherwise, I recommend that everyone tries to stick to a routine, I’m certainly finding the routine of Gaisce beneficial. Plan what you’re going to do for the week and try to stick to it as best you can.


Are you doing Gaisce at Home? Want to share your story with us? Contact comms@gaisce.ie

If you want to learn more about Gaisce at Home – see our post.


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