On Thursday evening, I accomplished something which before that point, I never thought I could. I gave a speech to over 200 strangers! I was invited by Grassroots Challenge Northern Ireland a fantastic project engaging young people in Nature, to give a speech at their awards ceremony. The challenge is for schools for those with educational needs, Duke of Edinburgh award participants and Young Farmers Clubs here in Northern Ireland. I have been so impressed and slightly envious of all the amazing things they have been doing for nature and wildlife.

I saw on the night all the great work which the award winners achieved, such as utilising their school spaces for Nature, educating others, making changes to pathways to incorporate native hedges and shrubs, learning old skills such as scything a wildflower meadow and making homes for nature (garden bird, bat and barn owl boxes). It was truly incredible and completely heartwarming to see all the good and important work being carried out. I smiled from ear to ear the entire night.

The awards were given out by the brilliant naturalist and cameraman Simon King president emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts. It was a fantastic night of celebration and accomplishment. Simon King’s speech was utterly spellbinding, he spoke about his childhood his serendipitous chances to become what he is today (although I feel that his talent is extraordinary and he is very humble and gracious). He showed the very famous footage he took of the Orca/Seal hunting scenes and some great anecdotes about his filming career – it was absolutely brilliant!

It was really great to meet Simon and have a chat as well! He is a complete gentleman and so engaging, it was such a privilege to meet him.

Thanks to my mum (sort of 😉 for filming most of my speech and uploading it to YouTube –

My speech was from the heart and I tried to be inspiring without being patronising and I wanted them to think rather than act on any ideas I might give them – that’s why I wasn’t prescriptive at all.

It was a fantastic night and I felt really privileged and honoured to be there. I’d love to come next year and see how everyone has continued to grow and expand! Huge thanks to Ulster Wildlife for inviting me. Well done to all the very deserving winners, especially St Gerard’s School in Belfast – I felt a connection with these kids and it was cool to chat with them and congratulate them. I’m hopefully going to visit their school and see first hand what they’re doing for nature!! Exciting! It was also great to chat with James Speers who is the president of the Young Farmers Club of Ulster, as most land is farmed here in Northern Ireland it is of utmost importance to engage the farming community to help nature thrive on their land. I think the Grassroots Challenge have been successful in engaging young people within the rural and farming community to take action.

Also, great news on my fundraising efforts for Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group – I’ve raised £1.7k already! We need so much more though, so if you feel moved, I would really appreciate your support on my Just Giving page.

Thank you so much for reading and for your continued support!

Dara