“I have never really felt a part of anything before – I can’t sing or dance or play sports. But now I know I am part of one thing forever – the Michaela Foundation family.”
My name is Bridgeen Downey and I am a third year at St Louise’s College. For the past two summers, I have been really lucky to attend the Michaela Foundation summer camp in St Mary’s University College. The experiences I had there have been so special and I just want to share a little bit of what it is like to be a MF campette.
I first got involved in camp through my school. One of the teachers approached me and a few other girls and offered us a place at a Summer Camp. None of us really wanted to go, we’d never heard of the Michaela Foundation, but she told us it was a different kind of camp and we would really enjoy it. I didn’t really believe her and thought it was going to be really boring, just another summer scheme with kids games. I was also really nervous because I didn’t know anyone else going and didn’t want to spend the week on my own.
Whenever I arrived on my first day, I knew I was wrong about this camp. The leaders were all really nice and there were so many of them. They made a real effort to talk to everyone and made me feel included. We went about the day and I am sure you all know the sorts of things we got up to – working our way through faith, fun, fashion, well-being and fáilte throughout the week. I loved them all but faith was probably my favourite element. I don’t go to mass and only ever really experience religion in school which can be a wee bit boring! Faith wasn’t just about praying or reading the bible, we played lots of games and it was really creative. I loved reading everyone’s prayers on the prayer garden and keeping them in my thoughts because I never realised what problems young girls like me really have. We also got prayer buddies and I made sure to pray for mine throughout the whole week. It was nice to know that someone else was praying for me, too. I really liked fáilte too, mostly because Róisin Martin was there always acting the eejit!
After the first year of camp I knew I really wanted to return the next year. Somehow, my prayers were answered and I was able to go back again for another amazing week. My best friend from camp was called Aoife. We were a really good match but unfortunately we got up to all sorts of mischief together! Aoife couldn’t believe that I’m too old to go back to camp next year so we started a petition and got everyone to sign it! We want the age of camps to be extended so that it doesn’t stop when you are 13. I don’t think the petition worked but we haven’t given up hope just yet! If all else fails, I’ll just have to apply to be a leader when I turn 16.
The Michaela Foundation has changed my life. Before going to it, I cared what other people thought of me but now I realise that it really doesn’t matter. I have gained so much confidence and really want to live a “life without limits.” It has taught me that it doesn’t matter where you come from in life, it just matters where you go. I want to say a big thank you to all of you, and to the people that run the foundation every day. The camps are so fun and so different. There is never a dull moment.
I have never really felt a part of anything before – I can’t sing or dance or play sports. But now I know I am part of one thing forever – the Michaela Foundation family. Thank you for listening to me and for all your work you all do for the foundation – you definitely all deserve a big hand; a round of applause and a seal of approval.