European Rally in Wales
August 9th 2014 saw the Irish Macra na Feirme delegation of Bill Keane (Kilmacthomas), Marita Bayly (Termonfeckin), Caitríona Fox (Ballyhoura) and Sarah Louise Healy (Donoughmore), along with team leader Gemma Goulding (Mountmellick), leave behind a dreary Dublin airport for a somewhat brighter and more promising week in Wales. Little did we know that we were about to have one of the best weeks of our lives at The Rural Youth European Rally, proudly flying the Irish flag or in Bill’s case customising it as part of his traditional Irish costume.
The European Rally is an annual event organised by the European Committee for Young Farmer Confederations and Rural Youth Europe. The European Rally affords participants the opportunity to become acquainted with different traditions, gastronomies and cultures while sharing experiences in a fun and entertaining way.
The scenic surrounds of Margam Discovery Centre in Port Talbot, Wales was the venue for this year’s European Rally. It became a home away from home to almost one hundred members of rural youth organisations from all over Europe including Ireland, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Germany, Austria, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia and Estonia.
The theme for the European Rally was “Creating a sustainable future for you, your organisation and your rural community”. Through a variety of workshops and activities, participants were encouraged to develop their skills and knowledge using sustainability within organisations, share their experiences, as well as familiarising themselves with the different means available to help support and develop their rural communities.
Proceedings formally kicked off with the ringing of the European rally bell (which could probably be heard in the hills and valleys of Wales for miles around) during the opening ceremony. A plethora of workshops ensued on diverse topics such as personal development, confidence, leadership, community organisations and thinking outside the box. More fun filled activities followed such as The International Buffet (where a delicacy of dishes were sampled ranging from Haggis to Cawl to some serious scoffing of the more familiar English scones and Swiss Toblerones), Discovision ( think Mid 90’s Eurovision Song Contest minus the dazzling lights and notorious outfits), geocaching (hi-tech orienteering), cycling, guided walks, farm tours and a tour of Cardiff city (including The Millennium Stadium). We also participated in lots of international sessions where we learned new skills through activities such as games, stories, dance, drama and music with some Europeans even taking a shine to The Siege of Ennis!
Of course we also learned about the Welsh culture too, even the use of the vernacular phrase “alright”, which is generally said in an enquiring tone but really is just another way of saying “hello”. We all spent a day with host families from different regions in Port Talbot, with ventures including a trip to the beach, to visiting an underground mining village, braving a haunted castle and having a shot at clay pigeon shooting to name but a few.
The Rural Youth Europe General Assembly also took place and Seán Finan (North West Vice President) attended on behalf of our President Kieran O’ Dowd. Some internal organisational issues within Rural Youth Europe were discussed and a new chairperson (Lukas Helfenstein of Switzerland) and a new vice chairperson (Linda Medne of Latvia) were elected. Future Rural Youth Europe events were presented (keep an eye on Macra’s weekly newsletter for upcoming events) and next year’s European rally will take place in Austria.
The European Rally concluded with a closing ceremony where everyone was dressed in their traditional costumes. Each participant was presented with a Youth Pass Certificate and a token of appreciation in the form of a miniature lamp to remind us of how we are shining lights within our communities and to commemorate the Welsh livelihood of mining.
We had a wonderful week in Wales and as team leader I would like to pay tribute to our amazing Irish delegation of Bill, Marita, Caitríona and Sarah Louise; as well as to Seán Finan who did a great job representing our organisation at the General Assembly and of course to Catherine McCollum who was on The European Rally Prep Team and looked after us to the very best. The Irish Team were so good at fostering links with our European counterparts that we even had some of our neighbours from the Five Nations enjoying themselves at our Macra Rally in lovely Laois.
Laois National Council Representative,
Macra Group Leader European Rally 2014