Gaisce - The President's Award
High Achiever: IWA Youth Service member Thomas Bruton tells us about taking on the President's Award (Gaisce).
My name is Thomas Bruton. I live in Leixip on a farm. I attend Rosse Court Training Centre in Balgaddy. I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair to get around. My interests are going to gigs, watching rugby, visiting theatre and cinema, playing boccia and swimming. I love the activities organised by IWA Youth Service. I go to the Clontarf Disco, Big Days Out and the Westside Young Adult Café.
The summer before last, I met a girl called Alex in Northern Ireland. She was volunteering in the Lighthouse Trust Summer School (www.lighthouse-trust.org) as part of her Duke of Edinburgh's Bronze Award. She told me about the award and I was really interested. When I came home, I found out that I could do the Gaisce (the President's Award) which has the same activities. It's Ireland's national challenge award for young people. You can do the same activities in 135 countries but it has a different name in each place.
I didn't do Gaisce as part of a school or organisation, like most people. I did it on my own, and was supervised by my Gaisce PAL (President's Award Leader), Marion Irwin Gowran. We communicated by email. That was the way I kept in touch and I only met her For the Community Involvement Activity, I set up and maintained a Facebook page for my drama group in Tallaght, Door to Elsewhere. For the Personal Skill Activity, I chose to learn basic French. I hadn't ever had the opportunity to learn French before and I found this quite hard!
For the Physical Recreation Activity, I decided to improve my swimming. I wanted to be able to swim 2 lengths of the pool at St. Raphael's, in Celbridge. It took me 6 months to do this. You have to do all the activities for at least 13 weeks and then do an extra 13 weeks for one of them. The 26 week one was swimming for me.
Then I had to organise an Adventure Journey. This had to be 2 days long with an overnight stay in a hostel. I had to find one which suited me and was wheelchair accessible. I chose Glendalough and did a project on the monastic settlement.
In September 2012, I was awarded the Bronze Medal in Ratra House, in Phoenix Park. This is the headquarters of the Gaisce. I met Marion, at long last! I am now working on the Silver Award and hope to go on to do the Gold Gaisce Award, after that.
If you'd like to know more about the President's Award you can log on to www.gaisce.ie. It answers all your questions.
I would recommend doing the Award. I felt I had achieved a lot and I had fun.