Irish Red Cross Portlaw Cadet UnitThe Irish Red Cross Portlaw Cadet Unit aka Youth Volunteers, established only just over a year ago, has been going from strength to strength with 42 members aged 9 to 18 having reached their first milestone last week – the completion of the OPTIONS Programme Bronze Level.

Consisting of eight different categories, this nationwide programme of the Irish Red Cross Youth gives participants the opportunity to take part in a wide variety of activities that would not generally be available to the entire group. The concept emphasises the importance of broadening horizons for young persons in a fun environment with the various modules adaptable to suit the individual unit’s needs and interests.

The Portlaw Cadet Unit embraced the opportunities wholeheartedly, with youth leaders as enthusiastic about the programme as the young members. Sheila Walsh, Cadet Unit Officer, is thrilled with the success of the first level of the OPTIONS Programme, “It’s fantastic to see how the kids, all from completely different backgrounds,  have developed during the past year and how the concept of the OPTIONS programme has helped the group to interact and bond. All of us have learned how facing challenges of trying something new or in a different environment gets so much easier as a group. It has helped a lot that all of our members are a real pleasure to work with and both our leader team and parents are 100% supportive of our activities.”

For the bronze level of the OPTIONS Programme, the group attended boot camps, courtesy of Russell Fitness in Portlaw, having young and old not just learning about the importance of warming up and cooling down but also participating in a challenging workout, covering the Sports & Health category. The module for Community Services was completed by assisting the Portlaw Tidy Towns Committee in their efforts to keep Portlaw’s streets clean and tidy. The OPTIONS Programme is a National initiative of the Irish Red Cross, so it was only natural for all to take part in an intense Practical First Aid Course, held by the unit’s own instructors. All cadets completed the course exams with flying colours, earning the Disaster & First Aid Training category and of course the certificate. The Personal Development Category was covered –slightly quieter than usual training sessions!- with an introduction into sign language and will certainly be refreshed and deepened further during the upcoming visit of a representative of the Irish Deaf Society. A workshop with representatives of a Scout Group gave us great insights into what to watch out for when preparing for a hiking or indeed camping trip and will come in useful for our future plans for the Outdoor Pursuits section which include such outings.

Just before Christmas was the ideal time to get stuck into arts and crafts activities, many small and not so small hands made bows for Portlaw’s Christmas tree and countless, beautiful stars, some of which were presented to the Dr Martin Day Centre, a great facility in the village where we intend to return for some more arts, crafts and a fun time around Easter time. An evening all about the principles, structure and history of the Red Cross, locally, nationally and worldwide, gave everybody a great International & Cultural Understanding of what we are about – Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity and Universality being the guidelines of any and all activities.

The support and facilitation of this programme by the youth officer in the Irish Red Cross Youth Office provided essential back up and advice to the success of the programme locally. All 42 participants are due to receive their well-deserved bronze certificates in the coming weeks, while plans for the silver and then gold level are well underway – no doubt our members will excel once again, we can’t wait for the presentation of the gold certificates at national level! Well done to one and all!

Bernie O’Sullivan, Chairperson of the Irish Red Cross Portlaw Branch praises the young unit, “We are very proud of our Cadet unit and all they have achieved in their short time together. They reflect for all of us the enthusiasm and get up and go needed to be successful and passionate about where they want to be and how best to achieve that end goal. They have, together with their excellent leaders who planned the program with great variety and foresight, grasped the Options Programme and turned it into an educational, interactive team building experience as well as fun and friendship which, I am sure, will give them a sound footing as young adults into the future.

As Chairperson of the Portlaw Irish Red Cross Branch, I speak with pride and optimism on the benefits of joining as a volunteer and our cadet unit’s interaction with other organisations highlights for us our existence as a voluntary group within the community.”

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