The Foróige Reference Panel aim is to bring forward ideas from our various regions across Ireland for group discussion and make recommendations to the National Council of Foróige on issues that affect young people. A number of representatives from each county are elected at Regional Conferences to attend the meetings. Throughout the year two meetings are held. This year they were held on February 22-24 and October 11-13. Jessica says:
Here’s my story...... At the Regional Conference we were asked what topics we felt affected youth the most. The topics chosen were bullying and peer pressure. I attended the Galway Regional Conference and at the end of the Conference I plucked up the courage to go forward for election to represent Foróige members in Galway on the Reference Panel and guess what....I was elected along with 5 others! Me and the other Galway reps along with 46 other elected reps now formed the Reference Panel and we were then tasked with working on these issues at our meetings, coming up with ideas on how we could tackle them and recommending what we thought Foróige as an organisation should do about them. During the February meeting of the Reference Panel we were asked our opinions on Foróige’s FAB February campaign. We all thought it was a great idea but we wanted even MORE people in Foróige to know about it and get involved in 2014. Bullying was described as constant harassment, which causes pain in a physical or emotional manner. Our main focus was on Peer Pressure, after everyone discussed the topics in workshops we came to the conclusion that Peer Pressure is always thought of as a negative thing. We became determined to promote ‘Positive Peer Influence’. Each county set a goal/objective to have prepared for the October meeting.
On June 17th 2013 the American Embassy invited 30 of us reps to a special performance of Riverdance with Michelle Obama and her two daughters! She is the most inspirational woman and I have no hesitation to say it was unbelievable! Definitely something we will remember forever! On the day I gave one of the security team a piece of Irish history to present to the first lady and I got a reply! It just shows that anything is possible.
The October meeting of the Reference Panel was a lot more comfortable, (if that’s the correct term to use.) Everybody knew each other and got along with one another. It became evident that there would be tears on the Sunday. Like every Reference Panel conference all the reps had to travel to Dublin. We went for dinner in the Aisling Hotel at six o’clock. After we had eaten we all travelled to the IMI in Sandyford. That night we listened to Oisin Bowyer, Thomas Pettit, Tomás Skelly, Stephanie ‘Stephie’ Hannelly and Ciarán Roddy as they told us what they had done to complete their objective. Saturday was spent discussing in workshops what TAB time (tea and biscuits time) meant to us. We also spoke about and presented what ways we saw fit to promote Positive Peer Influence. Saturday evening we went bowling and when we got back to the IMI we all dressed up. Sunday morning was all about us, what we had learned, our aims in life and what we gained from the Reference Panel.
It is hard to explain what the Reference Panel is to someone who doesn’t know but if I had to put it into word I would say it is the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. I would have no hesitation to run for it again if I could. You, reading this right now, go for it! You will never regret running for it. You meet so many wonderful people who you will treasure forever, a whole world of new experiences will be open to you and you will never forget your time there. It’s your Foróige:
Report of this meeting will be uploaded here very soon.