Julie first encountered Gaisce in Transition Year, and achieved her Bronze award in 2007. Almost a year later saw her achieve the Silver award. Difficulties in finding a PAL at Marino College led to Julie starting her Gold award in her second year of college, in 2011. There were more problems to come, as her PAL moved onto another post; but as Julie was approaching the end of her Gold experience, Gaisce PAL & Development Officer Marion Irwin-Gowran stepped in and reignited her enthusiasm to finish the last part of her award.
Julie’s personal skill was knitting. She progressed quickly in the knitting group in her college. They concluded that the first project should be a hand – as they were knitting by hand. The finished products were exhibited in the college grounds for all to see. The group moved onto another project – guerrilla knitting: a type of street art that is installed using colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn. Julie’s guerrilla knitting project was several colourful pieces sewed together, attached around the bark of a fir tree, on a country road in Sligo! Julie said, “It looked like a little cosy scarf on such a strong, tall tree!” Knitting was a great form of relaxation for Julie, as she made new friends in her knitting group.
“A sense of unity, a sense of purpose, a sense of community, a sense of well-being… The Gaisce Gold Award has rewarded me with each of these senses, along with one important other – that sense of loving life!!”
For her physical recreation Julie took up running, having done cross country races during her school years. She joined the local athletics club to train for her own enjoyment and satisfaction. As she preferred long-distance running, Julie had to learn how to pace herself, a skill which was very therapeutic and rewarding. Julie helped organise a 6km fun run in aid of Marcus Moore Leukaemia Treatment fund. The athletic club in college encouraged her to keep running as the dark evenings began more frequent. She took part in the Flora Women’s Mini-Marathon to raise money for Acquired Brain Injury Ireland.
Julie is a parish volunteer in Drumcliffe where she paints, draws, and decorates, cooks, cleans, and on occasion plays the organ during mass. She assisted at Summer Holiday Camps and drama rehearsals for the annual nativity play; this is all welcomed by Julie, as she loves working with children. She was a member of the organising committee for a fundraising Cabaret Dinner in January 2012. She jumped at the opportunity to design artworks for events organised in her community, such as a Barn Dance within the parish, and displays around Easter & Harvest Time. Julie was delighted to take part in helping out her parish as it has given her a valuable sense of belonging, and she has since joined the Parish Visiting Team.
In June 2011, Julie travelled to Romania to complete a mission trip with The Smiles Foundation. Visiting the families within the community was one her favourite days. Along with a social worker, she sorted through donated clothes and food and distributed them to the poor families. One of the most memorable moments was after saying goodbye to one of the families, a teenage girl ran after her with a small bunch of hand-picked flowers to say thank you. Of the trip, Julie said,
“The entire project gave me the chance to re-evaluate my background and give thanks for the life I have. It has taught me to count my many blessings. I gained a sense of unity as fellow volunteers and I were all there to share our time and our love with those less fortunate. The trip taught me to be more open and it reminded me that time is an important resource that everyone may share with others if they wish”
Julie completed her adventure journey in the Wicklow Way, along with her brother who was also completing his Gold Award! They agreed upon a trail from Marlay Park to Glenmalure. The second day proved troublesome, as they missed their turn off for their trail and spent a lot of time trying to find it again. Although, like true Gaisce awardees, they learned from their mistake and became more observant. Conditions weren’t helpful but they pushed through and arrived at their hostel for the night. The group were always encouraging and helpful towards one another. The entire experience gave her a great a sense of achievement, as well as a sense of pride, as she became more familiar with another part of this marvellous island.