Teenager Adrienne Walsh tells us about the week she spent at the Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Conference

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Foróige-Notinuse August 15, 2013

When people say to me “What is Albert?” , my whole inside warms up with joy and happiness but also with frustration. I know I will never be able to describe the amazing, life- changing experience we call Albert. It’s indescribable! However I am going to do my level best to try describe it here.

My name is Adrienne Walsh and I’m a member of Kitimagh Foróige Club and also FAYZ Foróige club in Mayo. I have been a member of Foróige for the past five years. It’s only been in the past few years that I have really understood the opportunities Foróige has to offer. In September 2011, I was elected Chairperson of my Foróige Club. Now as I was on the committee it was my responsibility to attend officer training and regional conferenceS representing my Club.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop! I was so engrossed by the power that Foróige gives us young people; Foróige listens to us! Our voice is heard! From there on in I got involved in every kind of training or committee that I possibly could. It was then I was informed about the Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Programme and Conference.
ASLFL is a leadership course designed for young people. There are 3 modules to be completed and also a final advanced module. Each year, for a week at the end of July until the start of August the annual Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Conference is held on the NUI Maynooth campus, and let me tell you, it is something magical! Delegates attend the conference from all around the world - from America, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, England, India, South Korea, Nigeria, Northern Ireland and Palestine.

The first conference I attended was the 2012 Conference. As I was a module 1 student, I had no idea what to expect. On my way up to Maynooth, I was a bag of nerves! Would everything be really serious? Would I feel intimidated? Would I fit in? My fears completely abandoned me the minute I stepped foot in Maynooth. The place had such a great aura about it! To see everyone’s welcoming face was reassuring, I knew this was going to be great.

You could tell by everyone’s faces that we were all slightly apprehensive, but by the end of Tuesday we’d all settled in and by Friday we had formed an unbreakable bond!
Each year at the Conference we have a selection of speakers, people who would be deemed as good leaders. Last year, a speaker who stood out to me was Joanne O’Rioardan. Joanne was born with no arm or legs and she didn’t let it hold her back! That day she spoke to us, she captivated the whole audience with her charisma and confidence. She is living life to the full! It really opened my eyes to how we should look at the glass half full and make the most of everything and every opportunity we have.
This year Boxer Kenneth Egan stood out to me. Kenneth started boxing when he was eight, and it took him 18 years to reach his dream of competing at the Olympics. His speech showed me that although it make take time and a lot of hard work, if you are willing and determined to reach your dream, you can and you will do it.

During the week of the Conference, each night we do different activities as a full group. On one night there’s karaoke, another night there’s a quiz and then my favourite two nights are Culture Night and the Graduation Ball. I love Culture Night as you really do get to learn about other cultures! People show off their talents and customs. Also if anyone is really nervous or too shy to perform everyone cheers them on and gives them the courage to do it! Those are the type of moments that Albert gives you, these moments really do unite everyone together, and the energy you feel at those moments is like no other!

Finally on Thursday night we have our Graduation Ball. Everyone gets all dressed up, we then head into Dublin for a sit down meal and a disco. The Ball is my favourite night as although you know Albert is nearly over, you get to have a great night with everyone. Friday is the most dreaded day of the week! I can assure you that both two years I have attended the Conference I have balled with tears when I was saying goodbye to everyone, and I wasn’t the only one! Many people question how you can feel such strong emotions, and may even feel the need to cry when you’re leaving people you only met five days ago? However what these people don’t understand is that bond that holds you together. Friendships are formed that will last a lifetime! You feel like a changed person! As I said at the start of this blog, it is indescribable, but the delegates, volunteers, and speakers and anyone that has experienced Albert in any way know the magic of it.

When you’re at Albert you just feel like you can be who you truly are and you know no one will judge you. Being around such friendly, open minded, inspiring people really does rub off on you! I swear I returned from Albert as a changed person. I was so much more open minded, a better leader and I gained a whole load of confidence! My mind was expanded, I had learned so much, but one thing really stuck out to me; as long as you have faith and are willing to put the work in, anything is possible! Albert really is a life changing experience and I would encourage anyone with the opportunity to take part in the Conference to go for it. It has honestly been one of the best experiences of my life! Thank you to Foróige and everyone that has made Albert possible, this conference is helping to shape the future leaders of the world. Us!