What's it like to be a member of Foróige's Reference Panel?

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Foróige-Notinuse March 28, 2014

Ciana Cooney of Bullaun Foróige Club, Galway

Getting elected on to the Reference Panel was a shock. I was over the moon and was intrigued to see what I was letting myself in for. Coming from a small Foróige Club it was the first time that someone from our Club got elected. The night before, as I packed my bag, I began to feel anxious and nervous. I am an outgoing and confident person but this experience was going to be something I had never done before.

I had no idea the effect this weekend would turn out to have on me. From once we set foot in Dublin it became clear that this weekend would be one that would never be forgotten. As we all gathered for dinner it was obvious that everyone was unique and the nicest group of people you will ever meet. The conversation flowed and it felt as if we all had known each other all our lives.

Words will never describe how much that weekend did for me as a person. It made me see that no matter what people do to you in life you are your own person and they can never take that away from you. The honesty and open mindedness of each and every person allowed us to be who we are. I did not have to be someone else to try and fit in. I felt so at home and comfortable in my own skin. Leaving Dublin and going back to reality was difficult but now had I learned to love myself for who I am , I knew that I had experienced something that no one will ever be able to take away from me . From the bottom of my heart I would like to say that this whole experience meant so much to me and I have come out of it a better person with some of the best friends that I will have for life. 

Kirsty Hayes of Clonakilty Foróige Club, Cork

After our lovely meal at the Aishling Hotel we gathered our way over packed bags and bundled ourselves into the bus for the seemingly endless journey to the IMI residence, which was to be our home for the weekend. After finally arriving at the residence, the suspense of finding out who were our roommates was over. We took our bags to our rooms while getting to know our roommate for the weekend, with the 47 other amazing people at the conference to me it was impossible to be disappointed with the selection of roommate.

After settling into our room we all packed into the hall, which would be our social hub for the weekend. After some very interesting ice breakers, it was almost as if I had known the other reference panel members for years, rather than a matter of hours. In our groups we discussed different topics in relation to Foróige Regional Conferences, Reference Panel and of course our own local Foróige clubs. The topic for the weekend, “promoting positive self-image” was also revealed! We discussed rules for the weekend such as respect, inclusion and of course, bedtime! After some free time to get to know each other the time came to head to bed to get some rest for the busy day ahead of us.

The weekend provided me with the opportunity to get my thoughts out there as well as the chance to get to know 47 of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure to meet, as well as some very inspirational leaders and volunteers! The experience is one that I will never forget and I know I have made some friends for life. I learned that it is okay to be who you are and you have to embrace it and be unique, which was an easy thing to do in such an open and positive environment. As one of the songs of the weekend said, "There’s no place I’d rather be" and there really is no place I’d rather be then with this amazing group of people! 

Seán Dunlea, Drumraney Foróige Club, Westmeath & Abigail Hannevig, Coralstown Foróige Club, Offaly

The first workshop we as a Reference Panel did was one where a number of quotes were written out on pieces of paper. The quotes were ones that showed us that we, as an individual, are perfect the way we are, and that nobody should tell us that we’re not. Each of us picked a quote that meant the most to us, and gave a reason on why this quote meant so much to us. The quotes gave everyone a chance to express themselves to the group, and gave everyone a chance to get to know each other better. They also gave the group the chance to grow close and make a special relationship over the weekend. We then picked a quote that the group felt expressed everyone in the group best. The group then went back and presented the quote through and short drama, a song, a drawing or poetry.

For the other two workshops we looked at the questions like “What do young people need to develop a positive self image?” and “What do young people need to do to deal with negative pressures so as to keep their positive self image?” We also made recommendations for how Foróige can help young people develop a positive self image.

It was brilliant being in the workshops as you got to say what you thought and what other people in your own club would say about the issues. People weren’t afraid to voice their opinions and we all got a chance to speak and listen to each other (which was even more important!) 

Lauren Lehane, Castle Foróige Club, Cork and Denis O'Sullivan, Whitechurch Foróige Club, Cork

On Saturday after all the workshops, elections for the National Council (governing body of Foróige) and the YPAC (Youth Participation Advisory Committee) took place. Each candidate was nominated and seconded and then gave a speech. The speeches were outstanding to say the least! They showed the love and passion for Foróige and how much it had an impact on their lives. After hearing those speeches any of those candidates would have been a credit to the National Council and YPAC.

The National Council results were in first and it was announced that there was a draw for 4th place between Ronan Lehane and Lauren Lehane from Cork which was quite funny. Ronan was a member of last year’s panel and he showed great kindness to withdraw from the second election giving Lauren the chance. It was then announced that Adrienne Walsh, Kevin Daly and Katie Dunne would join Lauren on the National Council. We then had the results of the YPAC elections and the members of the 2014 YPAC are now Seán Devers, Alisha Houlihan and Kelly Rennick. Congratulations to all who were elected and well done to all candidates, you are all truly inspiring people! 

Daniel Thompson, Kileevan/Newbliss Foróige Club, Monaghan 

My weekend at the Reference Panel in Dublin was an experience I will never forget especially all the fun activities. From playing ice breakers such as “Yehaw” and fruit salad, to going bowling in Leisureplex in Stillorgan, it all added to the great atmosphere the weekend brought. After the workshops and getting to know each other more during the day , we all came together and played songs, dance and had the craic! After we went bowling we were treated with boxes of pizza, loads of sweets and a bit of fruit too to keep the night going!

For me it was an experience I will never forget and I can gladly say neither will all the amazing people I met! I am really looking forward to working together with the Reference Panel on behalf of my club and the other Foróige club members in my region for the next year and I really can’t wait for our next meeting in October! 

Aaron Colfer, Rathvilly Foróige Club, Carlow

On Sunday morning, we all went to our conference room where we split into groups with the people we were elected with at the Regional Conferences. I sat with the other person from Carlow, Aisling. We worked on our Advocacy Plans in our groups, which are plans that we made to help solve the issues we worked on over the weekend and the smaller issues that might affect our local clubs and areas. We also made plans on how to present these issues and plans to the District Council and National council in Foróige, so that we can work on them at a local and national scale. All of the plans were excellent and everyone had great views and opinions on how to work on the issues effecting us and other the young people around Ireland.

After making our plans, the CEO of Foróige, Seán Campbell came in to listen to our plans and guide us with his opinions and views on how we could present these issues and how to go about solving them which was very helpful to all of us as a guide for how to work on our plans. Seán was very impressed with our plans and gave us positive feedback on what we would like to do to make people aware of these issues.

After we presented our plans we played our theme songs from the weekend “Express Yourself” by Labyrinth and “Happy” by Pharell Williams, while everyone said goodbye and pictures from the weekend were playing in the background. Then it was time to leave and get oue trains and buses back home. I really enjoyed my experience of the first weekend of Reference Panel 2014 and really look forward to working with everyone!