Belfast Community Sports Development Network
Just over two years ago I found myself on my first GAP residential in Leeds. I had no idea what to expect, and I didn’t really know what the whole initiative was about, but I was soon to find out. The thought of being asked back as a leader a few years on, didn’t exactly cross my mind at the time!
Naturally, as my journey continued and I realised what the Rank Foundation was trying to achieve as well as my organisation back in NI, I couldn’t have been more excited to give a hand with a group of Gappers (some of whom were experiencing this for the first time, and others who were back for their second and final gap residential). I kept remembering how I felt when I turned up as a Gapper; it was a mixture of nerves and curiosity, so it was just fantastic to see how friendly and welcoming all the Gappers were to one another. You always want people to be comfortable and feel included.
I was really impressed with everyone’s attitude and eagerness throughout the three days.
One of the most positive experiences as a leader, was listening to the Gappers in the session whereby each of us informally spoke about our organisation- what challenges emerge and what success stories have come from the Gappers youth work. It still amazes me the vast range of organisations/projects The Rank Foundation reach out to, because there are so many imaginative and innovative ways of interacting with absolutely everyone- some people forget how much actually goes on. The support and advice the Gappers gave each other, and me for that matter, was really inspiring.
Understandably, entering into the world of ‘education’ again can be very daunting for some people. I certainly remember questioning if I would be able to complete the diploma and there were times when I struggled. I really hope I was able to give the gappers an honest yet reassuring understanding of what the diploma involved, but it was important to highlight hard work and commitment were definitely central to succeeding in this area- which they are all more than capable of! When you are studying as a distance learner, having other people to talk to and get advice from is really important as it can sometimes feel like you are doing it alone. They all set up an instant message group to ‘get through it together’ which is always a good sign!
The active session that involved film making was just brilliant. The end result from each team was very well done, but of course that activity was just the tool – I believe real friendships were built here and the laughter was nonstop- another good sign.
Overall I really enjoyed being a part of this residential and it is amazing to think I was in their very position not to long ago- never thinking I would be back on the other side so to speak.
Thanks for having me and I will hopefully catch up with this outgoing group again!