Donegal women Sorcha McElchar from Castlefin and Emma McKinley from Falcarragh were among 77 young people honored for their achievements by President Michael D. Higgins on Monday.
The two were both celebrated on the day for their dedication towards personal development at Dublin Castle as part of the Gaisce Gold Award Ceremony.
The Gaisce Award is a direct challenge from the President of Ireland to young people aged 15-25 to dream big and realise their potential.
During her Gaisce journey, McElchar learned to play the guitar, improved her general fitness through gym work, dance and yoga and volunteered with children at her local youth club.
Speaking about undertaking Gaisce, Sorcha said: “For me, the physical element of my award was always going to be the most difficult.
“Not to mention that once you are over the age of 18, it is very hard to find dance classes in Donegal. While I was looking for dance classes I thought I’d work on increasing my strength and flexibility, which was virtually non-existent, to be honest.
“I went to the gym and started yoga. It was really difficult at the beginning. I was sore and tired all the time, but after a few weeks, it started to get better. I wouldn’t be as tired after a workout and my flexibility increased dramatically”.
Falcarragh native, Emma McKinley, described her Gaisce Gold Journey as a ‘challenging, but inspiring’ experience. The West Donegal native dedicated an hour each week for 52 weeks learning German and becoming more active through cycling and swimming in order to achieve her award.
As part of the process, Emma also became more involved in her local community by coaching Gaelic football, volleyball and athletics teams.
Emma’s Gaisce Journey Gaisce Award experience culminated with her setting up a charity, ‘The Thumbs Up Cycle’, where she organised and took part in a 720km cycle from Mizen Head to Malin Head to raise money for the RNLI after the death of a relative at sea.
McKinley’s also volunteered with Barretstown Camp at Barretstown Castle in Co. Kildare, where she helped them run a summer camp for children living with hemophilia.
Speaking about the Gaisce Award, McKinley said: “I first started my Gaisce journey in 2005 with the bronze award, so the gold award has been a long time coming but a challenge I am delighted to have finally achieved.
“Through this award, I have overcome many challenges. Through my physical skill, as well as competing in many cycling sportives across the country, I finally learned how to swim, something which I had always been afraid of doing.”Tags: