We were delighted to have Gaisce Gold Awardee and Dublin native Lucy McGill share her Gaisce Journey with us at our Silver Ceremony in Griffith College Conference Centre, Dublin on May 3rd 2019. After four years of hard work, Lucy received her Gold Medal in Dublin Castle on 10th December 2018 from President Michael D. Higgins. Here is her Gold story in her own words.
Physical Recreation: Hockey
For my physical recreation, I played hockey with Botanic hockey club. One of my favourite things about hockey is the team aspect. Team selection is based on ability and availability as opposed to age, and therefore there is always great variety on the teams.
Women’s hockey in Ireland took to the world stage last year with the Irish women’s team reaching the World Cup final in August, despite being the only fully non-professional team in the competition. Without a doubt, this has put Irish hockey on the global map and the appreciation for the sport that I have gained for it over the last few years while completing Gaisce has made me realise just what a huge achievement that is.
My Skill: Irish Sign Language
For my personal skill, I rekindled the love I had discovered for Irish Sign Language (or ISL) while completing my Bronze Award. Learning Irish Sign Language has opened my eyes to the fascinating culture and history of Ireland’s Deaf Community. I learned, for example, that boys and girls used to be taught separate signs (such as for the days of the week) and that members of the Deaf community give each other nicknames or Sign names.
In December 2017, ISL finally gained the long hoped for recognition as an official language in Ireland. This was a huge day for Ireland’s Deaf Community and the approximately 5,000 people who speak ISL as their first language.
My Volunteer Activity: Soup Runs
For my volunteer work, I started to go on weekly soup runs, joining a group of extremely motivated and dedicated volunteers from an array of countries and walks of life who meet twice a week to prepare and distribute food, hot beverages and clothes to Dublin’s homeless community.
Over the weeks you get to know certain people, what they like to eat and how many sugars they take in their tea. And as I walk through town now I see those crouched in doorways as individuals with stories and issues and a preference for three sugars instead of two. I have learned how valuable one smile and a “how are you today?” can be. I learnt that as humans, we just want to be listened to – and ultimately to be heard.
My Adventure Journey: The Camino de Santiago
For my Adventure journey, I walked 112km of the Camino de Santiago in Spain with three friends. It was extremely enjoyable, but not all plain sailing! On the second day it rained and rained from the moment we left to the moment we arrived. By the end of the day most of the paths had turned into streams and we had muck in all places imaginable. By the time we reached the hostel the showers were. Frankly, we were wondering why we decided this would be a good idea… But other days we walked through forests and fields with local inhabitants calling “Buen Camino” as we passed. By the last day we had even cracked out the suncream! All in all, walking the Camino de Santiago was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I am currently in the process of planning to walk another route this year.
My Residential Project: Teaching Reproductive Health Classes in Tanzania
The main difference between the Gold and the other Gaisce medals is the inclusion of a residential project. For my residential project, I spent six weeks volunteering in Tanzania teaching a reproductive health (and sexual education) programme.
I had always been wary of volunteer abroad programmes, often thinking they benefited the volunteers more than they benefited the local people. However, this project appealed to me for two reasons. Firstly, I was teaching the same information that I had been teaching in sexual consent workshops in Trinity College. Secondly, local people ran it and upon arrival, I received a week’s cultural training, so I could understand the customs, laws and taboos that came with working in Tanzania. As volunteers, I think without this training we would have been doing more harm than help.
Final Reflections and Thoughts
Through the experience of completing the Gold Award I was given the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and to partake in experiences and challenges that have had a huge impact on my life and the way I now view the world.
If I were to give three pieces of advice to anybody who is considering going for gold they would be:
- Pick things that interest you! 52 weeks sounds like a long time but if you are doing something that you really enjoy it will fly.
- Ensure you do have a balance. Make sure you still take time to rest and have some me time. My Gold Award took me four years and I have no regrets about having spread it out as I had time to reflect on the process and the people I was meeting.
- My third piece of advice would be to challenge yourself! Go that bit further than you had a chance to do with your Silver or Bronze Awards. Learn that symphony, join that sports club, follow new roads, immerse yourself in different cultures and communities and then take a step back and see what that has shown you about yourself.