You might be wondering what an adventure without limits has to do with our school in Belfast. Read more to find out!
Belfast Activity Centre (BAC) has been ‘Changing Lives and Building Futures’ for thirty years now. It doesn't matter whether a young person has a learning difficulty, a physical disability, comes from a socially disadvantaged background or goes to a grammar school. They believe every young person deserves a chance to find their abilities in life and have the opportunity of personal development through experiential outdoor learning. They also help train and develop the next generation of leadership in outdoor education.
Each year, BAC invite a group of people for the centre to their Challenge by Choice event to help raise money. The participants on AWOL (Adventure With-out Limits) are from all backgrounds, from business people, to supporters of the centre, fund raisers, politicians, or people who have come through the amazing youth development programmes the centre runs.
The challenge puts all fundraiser participants in the shoes of a young person taking part in activities in the centre. More often than not, these young people are from underprivileged backgrounds with little opportunity to express and develop themselves. The challenges they face and overcome at the centre – high ropes, abseiling, climbing, canoeing, camping, etc. – give an enormous sense of achievement.
This year, the fundraiser group, of which IH Belfast was a part, raised £9,000.
"[The money] will go towards repairing and upgrading equipment at the centre and continuing the amazing work they do in youth development and their accessibility programmes," said Paul McMullan, Director of International House Belfast, who took part in the Challenge by Choice event.
Paul was part of a team of investigators dropped into the Mourne Mountains to investigate the disappearance of a research scientist in the area. The first thing they had to do was find fuel, equipment and ration packs and get a fire going and get some sustenance for the mission ahead. They were split up into 2 groups to explore the area. His group was sent out to try and find the scientist. The other group headed off to search for any sign of suspicious activity. Paul's group spotted something in the river and had to abseil into canoes to investigate and set up a crime scene.
The other group found tracks going into what seemed to be a caving system. They found an ammunition case with a USB stick and a test tube containing some kind of chemical substance. All documents found were in a foreign language which they had to translate. The chemical was sent to NI Water for analysis. It was found to contain cryptosporidium. Cryptosporidium has also been found in the local mountain reservoirs.
They worked out that someone was trying to poison the water system. They had to find out who and find the scientist before it was too late – without leaving the grounds of BAC.
"[It was an] amazing experience," said Paul. "The BAC do amazing work on their Youth Development and Accessibility Programmes. They organise adventure experiences that deliver educational, motivational and team building outcomes.
"It’s almost impossible to overestimate the difference Belfast Activity Centre can make in the lives of local young people."