PAL Spotlight – Helen Farrell

PAL Spotlight – Helen Farrell | Gaisce Stories

Gaisce Stories’ PAL Spotlight is an opportunity to promote the work and voice of our President’s Award Leaders! We reached out to Helen Farrell, who recently attended the PAL Celebration Award Ceremony and was recognised for guiding and mentoring a Gold Awardee.

Here is her journey so far as a President’s Award Leader:

My name is Helen Farrell, and I became a President’s Award Leader after a career break in 2012. I came back to work in KARE, and my colleague Frieda was talking about Gaisce and what a fantastic program it was.  I have worked in Kare for over 20 years, and I can honestly say that this is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I did my initial PAL training with Gaisce’s Project Manager, Marion Irwin-Gowran, who it turns out is a neighbour from my school days!

When the first group went to Ratra House for their Bronze Award, everyone was really excited. The organisation [KARE] was really enthusiastic about Gaisce and what all young people can achieve. It was this great sense of achievement and seeing potential in people, the opportunity to be challenged that sparked my interest in Gaisce.

For the Adventure Journey, I have to say that I was not overly excited personally about staying in hostels etc, but after the first time I went away with a group from Kare, there was a real sense of camaraderie and achievement for the group that went away together that was so tangible, I couldn’t help but be excited as the people we were supporting.

The support that we as PAL’s receive from Gaisce is amazing.  Over the years we have worked with different people in Gaisce and their willingness to chat or help in any way they can has been fantastic and this continues with our current regional Development Officer Ger Brady.  I was recently an award recipient in Farmleigh house and was so delighted and honoured to be a part of Gaisce.

Motivation is a skill I have developed while working as a PAL, to help the lads complete the required weeks for a challenge area or whilst completing the adventure journey.  What I love most about it is the fact that we ask the same of the people we support as any other young person working towards a Gaisce award.  I have adapted to staying in hostels over the years of working with Gaisce and our groups here in Kare.

I have worked with the first people to achieve their gold Gaisce awards in KARE and the real sense of pride for all involved is what helps to keep me motivated.  My own fitness has improved in helping groups to prepare for Adventure Journeys – it was 100km over the 5 days for the Gold Participants.

By challenging the people, we work with to achieve, it’s wonderful to see the potential in people who traditionally are not challenged can and do achieve.  The opportunity to go away with a group of peers and do an Adventure Journey is always a highlight for people we support. The social element of celebrating after is always a highlight for all involved too. The last few years not being able to do that has been hard. With my colleague Frieda we are really looking forward to getting away with groups again this year.

Volunteering is always the one challenge we have to ‘sell’ most to staff as ordinarily the people we work are more usually on the receiving end of volunteering, from student placements etc.  So, it opens up a lot of opportunities for everyone involved.  The volunteer aspect has been very rewarding for everyone involved and indeed, many continue to help out in their local community centre beyond the required weeks for their community involvement aspect of the Gaisce award.

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