I was hosted for the evening by Wendy Osbourne, CEO of the Northern Ireland Volunteer Development Agency who later joined me in presenting an award to Northern Ireland’s Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) for their ongoing commitment to and support of volunteering in Northern Ireland. There are over 280,000 registered volunteers in Northern Ireland and DCAL are working to ensure they all have as many opportunities as possible to turn their commitment and enthusiasm into long lasting memories and experiences.
After a good night’s sleep and a full Irish breakfast (when in Rome, as they say) I was taken to St Joseph’s School in Lisburn where I went to see Sport Northern Ireland’s Active8 project (awarded the London 2012 Inspire mark) in action.
Active8 challenges children to get active at school or at home for 60 minutes every day by following simple steps like moving their bodies, being part of a team or involving their families in physical activity. The school have taken on the challenge with real vigour and the children have been learning about the effects of raising their heart rate on both their physical and mental well-being.
The children gave a presentation where they described feeling positive, alive, happy and smiley after taking part in physical activity – if that doesn’t convince you to take up exercise, what will?
If you were to envisage a scheme that encapsulates everything that London 2012 is about, Active8 would be it – targeting young people at exactly the right age. Every day at 10am at St Joseph's School, they don't just have 'break time', they 'Activ8' themselves. The school playground is filled with hula hoops, skipping ropes, balls and the most wonderful sound of children enjoying themselves.
I was invited to take part in the hula hoop and skipping at which, as you can see from the photos, I had limited success. (What the image doesn't show is that the hoop fell straight to the floor after just one hula!)
If I was 10 years younger I might even move to Northern Ireland and send my kids to St Joseph’s Primary, it is such a fantastic school!
Whilst in Northern Ireland I also attended a dinner with the Northern Ireland Leadership Group, charged with delivering the benefits of London 2012 in Northern Ireland. It was good to meet everyone and in such a positive atmosphere. Given the geography of Northern Ireland in relation to London it is encouraging to see the levels of support and such wonderful engagement. London 2012 really is making a difference in Northern Ireland, not least through Active8.