Blog: Gaisce at home with Orla Leahy

Orla Leahy is a student from Cork who is currently going for her Gaisce Gold Award. Here she tells us how COVID-19 has affected her, how she has adapted her Gaisce challenges and how she’s been volunteering from home.

What’s been the hardest thing about the current situation?

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. 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 spending your time?

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?

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.

What’s your best advice for other young people coping in this situation?

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.

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.

If you want to learn more about Gaisce at Home, check it out here.

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