“Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”

Saturday July 26th 2014

Deciding what topic to write this month’s blog on was an incredibly difficult task…not! I’ve had a weekend to recover from what was one of the best weeks ever: Michaela Camp 2014! But more on that later…

I came back from Utrecht in the Netherlands in Mid-July where I experienced a brilliant 2 weeks in a Summer school on Equality. Maybe you’re thinking, “Why would you spend time going to school in the Summer?!” and perhaps you’re right. Perhaps I need my head looked at! But in all seriousness, it really never felt like a school. Yes, there were classroom-based activities, but I met a great bunch of people from all over the world including so many European countries, the USA and South Africa. The topic is one that I found very interesting and we discussed a number of issues relating to equality such as immigration, slavery and LGBT rights. I particularly liked how 9 people came from the North of Ireland, which was encouraging given how we are such a deeply divided and unequal society. Having a mixture of faiths and backgrounds there was brilliant. When you get to uni, you realise that none of that really matters. As long as you respect others, they will respect you. It certainly gives me a lot of hope for the generation that I’m living in.

Fast forward to Monday 21st July when 80 shy campettes walked into Loreto Grammar School in Omagh, accompanied with a parent or guardian to be greeted by a crazy bunch of leaders. All looking round to see if any of their friends were there, searching through the timetable to see what the first day had in store, and discovering the beautifully decorated pages of their own Michaela Camp Journal. After a few ice-breakers and warm-ups, it’s a completely different environment and the atmosphere is already buzzing!

I was lucky enough to be part of the well-being team. I say lucky, because that’s exactly what it was: a massive honour to be involved in some way, shape or form. I was fortunate enough to be working alongside not only a great bunch of leaders, including Kerry-Anne, Joanne and Bronagh, but also the campettes, who often surprised me at their intelligence, sense of humour and maturity. At times, when one of us asked a question, I was blown away by the responses we got. And this continued throughout the week.

On the first day, we created smoothies; filled with fruits and natural ingredients rather than artificial sugars and ice-cream. This was a great way to promote a healthy life-style and help get the recommended 5-a-day. On Tuesday, we created organic lip balms. The ‘organic’ element was especially useful, given the amount of harsh chemicals that we expose ourselves to on a daily basis. A ‘spa day’ followed, whereby the campettes took the time to relax, pamper themselves, and soak up the atmosphere with the help of a foot spa. Throughout all this, we took the time to create a positivity well-being tree. This involved creating their own label with a positive quote or aspiration to do something in the future. When all 80 were attached to the tree, this gave the impression of leaves and reminded us of the tree theme for the week. We also decorated the tree with roses which reminded us of the symbol for Michaela.

I love a good wee motivational quote now and again, so it was nice to see which quotes meant a lot to all of them. Examples included “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”. Others opted for setting a goal, such as to drink more water, get more sleep or simply (yet arguably difficult for a lot of us) to be more happy. This tree was placed on the altar on the mass on Friday as a reminder to nourish these positive labels and watch them multiply next to the others.

Having a free hour on most days meant us leaders also got to experience some of the other elements for ourselves. Fun, fashion, faith and fáilte were all brilliantly planned and complemented well-being beautifully. All I could think of was how much every campette must have been enjoying themselves getting to experience everything each day. On Tuesday we had a special guest visit the Faith room. Listening to Mickey Harte speak about the journey of his faith meant a great deal to me and the rest of the leaders. It’s always encouraging to listen to how we can improve our relationship with God, and reassuring to know it’s natural to struggle when in times of need or despair, but what’s important is taking the time to have a constant relationship. It doesn’t just mean asking him for our intentions, or only praying once a week, but thanking him for everything when things are going okay – be it an answered intention, or simply being able to get up in the morning and to enjoy life.

Overall, there are just too many ways to describe the week. Exciting, amazing, exhausting, enlightening, educating and unbelievable all spring to mind. One of the things that was mentioned on Friday at the closing ceremony was our roles as a leader or volunteer. Typically, you would expect that the campettes see some of us as role models or someone who they find interesting. In reality, it was the other way about. They may only be between the ages of 11 and 13, but talking to them felt like I was speaking to people wise beyond their years and it certainly gave me a lot to think about. On another note, it was nice to have my home town of Carrickmore so well represented. There were campettes and leaders from there, Paul Kelly facilitated a fun-based drama class, and Cliodhna Fullen and the rest of the Irish TV crew dropped in for a cuppa and saw us all in action.  It made me think how scary it is that it was me a few years ago in their drama classes and now the tables are turned and I’m in the ‘leader’ role. I guess that’s just the process of growing up! However, listening to some of the campettes say that they want to be a leader in the camp someday along with the feedback we received at the end of the week makes it all worthwhile. Michaela Camp 2014 – you’ve been brilliant! Life Without Limits!