Dublin Raid for Amnesty International 2017

For those that know me you will be aware that I am on the committee for Leeds RAG (raising and giving) society. And if not, you’ve just learned something new!

For those that know me you will be aware that I am on the committee for Leeds RAG (raising and giving) society. And if not, you’ve just learned something new!

This weekend (17th-19th February) was our Dublin Raid which involved sending participants to Dublin to bucket shake for Amnesty International – a charity supporting human rights. 10 of us went in total.

Day 1

After getting the train to Manchester airport and dealing with stressful security checks, we boarded the Aer Linger plane and set off at 5:45pm.

It was an incredibly short flight, lasting only 40 minutes!

Me, Liz and Frankie onboard

Following an incident involving a lost passport, we eventually left Dublin Airport around 8pm and headed to our hostel via taxi.

We arrived at The Generator Hostel, located on Smithfield Square. According to the taxi driver, it is one of Dublin’s more expensive hostels and it certainly impressed at first, with its clean modern layout of rooms and access to free wifi.

After a quick refresh and a bite to eat, we decided to explore the city’s nightlife.

Our first stop was Dice Bar, on the corner of Benburb and Queen Street. A busy local with great music and selection of beverages, it was definitely my favourite bar of the night!

Dice Bar in the daytime

After spending a while here, we moved on to another local Irish pub.

Unfortunately I did not get its name, but we stayed here for a while and then decided to return to the hostel to get a good nights sleep for a busy day of charity work tomorrow.

Day 2

After getting ready and trying out the surprisingly good communal showers, we all headed down for our free continental breakfast in the basement.

Filled up slightly on bread, Darcy from Amnesty International arrived at our hostel around 10am to guide us to their city office. She was incredibly helpful, pointing out good places to go in Dublin and informing us about the city itself.

Upon arriving at the office, the staff were extremely friendly and welcoming. We entered a meeting room and were provided with information about the charity, for instance, what it is currently working on and its aims.

We were also given bibs, wristbands and buttons to be worn when promoting the charity.

Promotion Material

We also received relevant paperworks such as permits proving that we were lawfully collecting money for the charity incase anyone asked for official documents.

Arranged into pairs, we were allocated different locations within Temple Bar and Grafton Street and arrived at our stations around 12pm.

Initially it was a slow process despite our best efforts to get donations. Yet we kept our spirits high, smiling at passing glances and glares of the public.

Towards mid afternoon it picked up with people being incredibly generous, donating coins and notes as well as giving encouraging words, making standing outside in the cold Irish wind worth it.

Unfortunately we did encounter a few negative responses such as being called murders for Amnesty’s stance on Womens rights to have an abortion. We avoided further conflict through our positivity and remained smiling even when a bird pooed on my head!

A personal highlight was a donation from a young man who had collected €25 of loose change from pubs and the ground for over two years. Deciding that it was a worthwhile cause, he gave us the entire lot which was incredibly heartwarming and restored our enthusiasm following the negative encounters of the previous hour.

Bucket Shaking for Amnesty International

We finished bucket shaking around 5pm and returned to Amnesty International where we dropped off our buckets and were thanked for our help.

Following this, we headed back to the hostel for some food and a rest.

Unfortunately, the hostel were not very accommodating for people with dietary requirements. Despite promising us all free pizza that suited everyones needs (1 x Vegan, 2 x Lactose Intolerant, 1x Gluten Free, 1 x Gluten Free and Vegetarian), they failed to deliver.

This is what was served.

The promised ‘Gluten Free Pizza’

This was incredibly frustrating and we gave up trying to communicate with them as they clearly did not understand or care. They served the same food to everyone with an allergy, offending those who were lactose intolerant and vegan by putting yoghurt on their plate and did not know what the green sauce was – claiming it was originally pesto then herb based.

I was so hungry that I decided to order in Gluten Free pizzas (for me and another girl) from a local branch of Pizza Express so at least we had a decent meal before heading out.

My favourite pub of the night in Temple Bar was the Porterhouse. Opened in 1996 as Dublin’s first pub brewery, it is an fantastic place to go for a pint, with its vibrant scene, exciting layout, live band and varied selection of draft beers and cider.

I definitely will be going back again!

Day 3

With our flight home being at 7:20pm, we had a free day to explore the city.

We decided to split into two groups – those who wanted to go on a coastal walk and those who wanted to wander around and see the sights of Dublin.

I went for the latter option.

The first sight we set off to find was the House of Parliament.

Along the way we stumbled across Dublin Castle and stopped for a quick photograph before carrying on.

Dublin Castle

We then walked to St Stephens Green, Irelands best known Victorian Park which was incredibly pretty!

Potato Famine Statue

Finally we reached Parliament but it was an anticlimax to say the least! Fenced off from the public, there was no photo opportunity and not much to see.

Hopping into an Irish Uber, we set off to the Guinness Storehouse, the most popular public attraction in Dublin.

Along the way, we passed St. Patrick’s Cathedral and were given an informative talk about the history of Guinness in the city from the taxi driver.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The Guinness storehouse did not disappoint!

It was amazing.

Filled with tons of factual information about brewing, advertising, heritage and tasting, it took us a good 2 hours to go around!

After exploring each of the 5 levels, we went to Gravity Bar to collect our free pint of Guinness.

After the storehouse, we headed for Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison for the County of Dublin.

Upon arrival we were told that all the tours for the day were sold out, but we were given free access to the museum. After looking around, we headed back to the hostel for a rest before the journey home.

Eventually we arrived in England around 8:20pm following a 15 minute flight delay. We got into Leeds for around 10:30pm and headed separate ways home.

Overall, Dublin has been a blast despite the lack of sleep! If you have not been, I would recommend a visit – it certainly does not disappoint.

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Charity Skydiving Adventure

Going to University is all about trying new things; many people try out new sports or find their voice within ACapella. But nothing could have prepared my parents for what I was getting up to.

Going to University is all about trying new things; many people try out  new sports or find their voice within ACapella. But nothing could have prepared my parents for what I was getting up to.

 I had signed up spontaneously to do a 15,000FT skydive as part of Leeds RAG (Raising and Giving Society).

Whilst I am not the most outgoing of people, I have always wanted to do a skydive at some point in my life, just to tick it off my bucket list.

And doing it for charity was surely a good enough reason, wasn’t it?

As I have been brought up on a working farm, I have witnessed first hand the testing times farmers face, such as the Foot and Mouth epidemic back in 2001 or the recent floodings in 2015.

Moreover, as a member of Pendle YFC I am aware of the challenges upcoming farmers are facing, and wanted to do something to raise awareness for the farming industry itself.

Therefore, I chose to raise money for the welfare charity R.A.B.I (Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution) who provide financial aid, relief workers, essential household items, disability equipment and even care homes for U.K (England and Wales) farmers struggling to make ends meet.

Following my decision, I got in touch with the charity over email to let them know about my crazy fundraising effort and they were incredibly supportive, sending me a t-shirt and card wishing me luck with my jump.

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Postal goodies from R.A.B.i

Originally I aimed to raise £200 for the charity. I did this by constantly promoting my fundraising link on social media. My persistence certainly paid over, as I managed to raise £551 – before even jumping out of the plane!

The original jump date was set for 20th February 2016 and we all set off from the Parkinson Building in Leeds to arrive at Hibaldstow Skydive Centre for 10am; the stated time of our briefing.

Yet the weather was set against us, with gale force winds making it unsafe for the jump to go ahead.

Whilst I was a little bit disappointed, I was rather relieved, thinking that maybe I would not have to jump out of the plane after all.

 But part of me was determined to carry out the skydive, and despite another cancellation (this time due to cloud!) which was incredibly frustrating, I finally got the go ahead on the 25th March.

Before I was allowed anywhere near the plane, I had to sit through a 20-minute briefing from one of the experienced skydivers at the center.

He talked all of us through the harness, highlighting where the main parachute was for instance.  He also demonstrated the jumping and landing pose for us, then got us to practice them in front of him to make sure we were able to adopt the correct positions with ease.

After what felt like signing my life away on a sheet which stated my responsibility should the dive go wrong, I was then shown an adrenaline skydive promotional video. I left the briefing super excited, ready to throw myself out of the plane.

But I had to wait. For another 3 hours!

Finally, around 4:20pm I was summoned to the rigging up room. Everything occurred so quickly in the room, pulling on overalls (as a farmer I have mastered this art), attaching the headwear, and then greeting my instructor, who squeezed the life out of me whilst tightening my harness.

Once ready, I was told to wait in the drop zone area for the minibus that was going to take me to the plane.

But typical me, I almost missed the bus!

I quickly jumped on as my instructor began to worry he had left me behind. The bus ride felt like forever and it was at this point the experience felt real; this wasn’t a drill, I was actually going to jump out of a plane today!

The plane itself was tiny, and I was the first in, meaning I was going to be the last out. There was 8 of us crammed into a tiny propeller plane as well as the driver. Space was certainly tight.

As the plane climbs, I stare out of the window, thinking surely this is high enough. But it keeps on going.

With my instructor already having done 4,200 jumps in his lifetime, I felt rather safe, and his smile gave me confidence that I was going to be fine, destroying any nerves that had been brewing.

I look at the altometre, we are at 15,000FT and the door opens.

Blimey, it is cold!

I watch the others vanish into thin air without a care in the world, wondering how they can be so calm.

Then it’s my turn. I edge towards the door, and adopt the position. It’s all very intense and the force of the wind pushing up at you is so strong.

You can’t hear anything, as it’s so loud, yet at the same time utterly peaceful and serene. It sounds so cliché but time simply froze, then without warning, we jumped.

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It’s hard to describe what free falling feels like but personally I found it pretty horrendous.

I’m completely aware that I am falling towards the ground at a hundred and something miles per hour and the wind is so strong I can barely hold myself in the correct position. I occasionally look down but the cold air hits my goggles causing them to mist up.

I’m free falling and blind.

Moreover, I feel unattached and something slowly registers that I don’t seem to be breathing. It was at this point I realized what I had let myself in for; and I just wanted it to be over as soon as possible!

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Then the parachute opens jolting me back up into the sky. I breathe a sigh of relief. I am going to be fine.

But my stomach is in knots and I feel so sick. Especially when the parachute begins swaying and turning sharply.

Despite this, the view is amazing: a patchwork of fields underneath my feet. It seems to be taking forever to reach the ground, and I can feel my blood drain from my face.

I seem to be missing this adrenaline feeling that everyone apparently gets.

Finally, we approach the landing zone and I get my legs as high as I can for the sitting landing.

The cameraman and a spare instructor run towards us in order to make the landing as smooth as possible.

Then we hit the floor. I collapse backwards onto my instructor and I can’t quite believe what I have just done.

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I am in a state of disbelief and shock. After a minute or two of appreciating the ground, I am unclipped and help the instructor gather the parachute, before walking back to the rigging room ready to give the equipment back.

My hands are still shaking as I am congratulated for my dive and given a certificate and a high five.

I am then reunited with my family in the café, who grab me a brew as quick as they can in order to bring me back to life as I just sit there and ponder what I have just done.

I do not regret the skydive however, as I did it for a worthwhile cause and raised an amazing amount of money (£832!) for the charity which will hopefully improve farming families lives for the better.

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However, I think the next time I am feeling charitable, I may just hold a bake sale, where my feet can be kept firmly on the ground.

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