Caoimhe’s journey with Michaela Foundation

Monday June 1st 2015

Below is the transcript of a presentation delivered by Caoimhe O’Hagan at the 2015 Annual Michaela Foundation Tea Party. 

 

Hello everyone, my name’s Caoimhe O’Hagan and I’m privileged to be one of this year’s Michaela Foundation Scholars. However, my journey with the Michaela Foundation doesn’t just start here!

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My journey began almost three years ago now, when I was 6th year in Our Lady’s in Newry. With, what at the time seemed like a very spontaneous enquiry email to complete strangers turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever did. It happened at a time when I had a little hole in my heart and I desperately needed some light, and it turns out Michaela Foundation was just what I needed.

My first day volunteering was the following Saturday, selling tickets in the Buttercrane for the upcoming Match for Michaela. I just loved every second of it! Before I left John McAreavey jokingly said, “You know Caoimhe, once you volunteer for the Michaela Foundation there’s no going back! We have you now!” And he wasn’t joking! From then on, I had well and truly caught the “MF Bug”. I knew in my heart there was something very special about this foundation, and I wanted to apart of it, in whatever way I could.

My volunteering from then just went above and beyond anything I ever could’ve imagined. From Summer camps, to the catwalk, to hopping around the Buttercrane dressed as a rabbit, to my 13,000ft tandem skydive, there’s never been a dull moment! However, behind all the fun, the effect my involvement has had on me personally has been unbelievable. It’s through my involvement that I’ve met people who share the same interests and qualities that I do, and have met so many everyday role models who have had a massive influence on me, and continue to inspire me everyday.

During my last year in school there was so much pressure in terms of exams, university choices, UCAS, personal statements and who can get involved in the most extra circular activities to be deemed as the most desirable applicant. Everything was focused on your academic strength, not you as a person. However, once the Student Award Scheme application was realised the first thing I noticed was that there was no section for academic achievements, everything was about you, your hopes and your dreams. For that reason I completed the application, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but never did I imagine that I would be successful, standing here as one of the Scholars of 2015! It was a very special way to start my new chapter at Queens.

Coming from a small rural primary school, to an all girls grammar school, I suppose I began university life with a certain naivety, forgetting that I was entering the big bad world as a young adult. I held onto those stories that your university years will be the greatest years of your life. However, it took a few weeks to really settle in.

I missed those home comforts we all take for granted during our time at home, and being the home bird that I am I missed seeing my family everyday. I missed that secure bubble of school, because in university in a lecture of hundreds of people, nobody really cares if you show up or not, or is there to ensure you understand everything. It’s a totally different ball game that requires a lot of determination and self-motivation.

It was certainly a shaky start, but once I adjusted I was flying. I’ve learned that I’m not as domestically challenged as I had initially thought. I’ve made an abundance of new friends, learned so much and made so many memories along the way. I was also so lucky that I embarked on my university journey with my best friends, who stood by me throughout it all. The importance of true friendship at a vulnerable and nerve-wreaking time like that is invaluable, and I was so blessed in that sense. Most importantly, I learnt that all those pressures I worried about during my final year in school really weren’t that important once I got to university. Once you get there nobody cares about how many A*’s you got at A-Level or what you put in your personal statement. It’s your personal growth and the relationships you’ve built, and have come from involvement in things such as volunteering that will last a lifetime.

I am so thankful to have the Michaela Foundation as such a significant part of my life. It’s helped me get to know myself better, discover what I’m truly passionate about and also have a role in shaping the future of the young people of Ireland. Something, which is so invaluable, and I can be proud of beyond all else.

In life we aren’t all destined to do extraordinary things, but we are all capable of the little things. That’s what volunteering is all about, be it with the Michaela Foundation or any other organisation close to your heart. It’s realising that your self worth comes from what you do for others and how you make them feel.

My experience of helping others has been through giving nothing put the precious gift of my time but having reaped the benefits one hundred times over. Because, as St Francis of Assisi once said, “It truly is in giving, that we receive”.