Thank you Achill!

The EU-Train departed Achill on Saturday morning after a very successful week full of workshops and interesting activities. On Friday evening the 60 participants from eight different European countries invited the people of Achill Island to an evening of entertainment and to share in the wonder and mystery of the island as seen through the eyes and hearts of those who were 'strangers' to one another and to the island at the beginning of the week. Achill Cliff House Restaurant was filled to the brim with presenters, interested audience and facilitators from the Island.

As the evening unfolded and each group presented the results of their stay it became evident that despite the discipline and demands of the various workshops a lot of fun was had by all. As cultural difference was the order of the day in the workshops (a minimum of three different cultures had to be represented in each workshop), one sensed a unity of purpose in achieving the set tasks. It was an evening of celebration - a recognition of cultural differences but more so a recognition of a unifying creative spirit shared by all.

"The participants of the workshops must have worked non-stop during their stay on the island" said Sheila McHugh who as a representative of AIACLA had helped facilitate the abundance of contacts even before the international group had arrived on the island. Indeed, there had been workshops such as Painting, Instrumental Music, Singing, Shared Landscape, Our Sea Your Sea, Photography, Creative Writing, Drama to name but a few. One of the main objects of the workshops was to bring the international groups in contact with Achill people, to find common ground and to produce something together as a group. The 'visitors' were able to learn a lot from the local people but strangely enough, the locals also learned from the 'visitors' who saw the island from a different angle. "It was fascinating to look at something so familiar from a different perspective" said Maeidbh , a pupil at Scoil Damhnait who had been part of the Achill Team who participated in the "digital preparation" through e-mail and web pages. "The new media really helped us get to know each other before we met in reality - we were all quite curious to get to know the real Inger from Sweden and Andreas from Germany after we had exchanged e-mail messages for quite a while". In this the fourth year of the project, Dr. Laurence Borgmann from the University in Remagen, Germany, brought 60 participants to Achill Island as part of the educational cultural exchange.

As the Achill community begins to emerge from the cold and dark of winter, the visit of the European group has come to herald the beginning of spring. The island awakens to the realisation that the seclusion that winter provides has also been, in a way an incubator for ideas and planning. The electronic and technological advances made over the past number of years has not passed Achill by; most of the communication with the Achill co-ordinating group, AIACLA has been using the new technology. The computer and the information super highway, with its Internet and e-mail has been an integral part of the project and the learning process from the beginning. Many of the European participants are skilled in the use of all aspects of computers - from web design to digital imagery and presentation and they share those skills with business interests and individuals in the community.

For one week in February each year Achill is no longer on the periphery of Europe. The intense focus that the European group bring to the community encourages the local people to look at the cultural heritage that is theirs in light of the greater European Community context. A greater awareness and appreciation is generated as questions are asked, stories are shared, schools are visited and young people display their talents on the tin whistle and teach the visitors some words in Irish as part of the Europe Goes to School workshop. The group also visited St. Colmans Day Care Centre and the residents of the Sheltered Housing project.

Dr. Borgmann and the sixty participants have asked to extend their warmest thank you to all those on the island who have made the workshops such a complete success by giving their valuable time to be with the participants from all over Europe. The Achill 'specialists' facilitators included Thomás Mac Sheáin, Thomas McLoughlin, Tim Daly, Maria Cafferkey, John Gallagher, Seosaimh O'Dalaigh, Sean Cannon and John O'Shea

The Gaelic and Runic workshop have found their own way of thanking the Island for the abundant hospitality:

Gaelic: Cuairt ar Acaill ó 5/2 go 10/2/2001

Thug mé cuairt ar Oileán Acla, in éineacht le mic léinn eile ó scoileanna éagsúla san Eoraip, ar fea seachtaine. Shrois muid an t-oileán ar an Domhnnach. Rinne mo ghrúpa staidéar ar an Ghaeilge agus ar Runes ar an Luan, an Mháirt, an Déardaoin agus ar an Aoine. Rinne muid turas ar fud an oileáin ar an Chéadaoin. Rinne muid Crosóga Bríde ar an Mháirt. B'é Thomás Mac Sheáin agus Jenny Pettersson a thug na léachtaí.

Swedish: Achill Island 5/2 till 10/2 2001

Jag besökte Achill Island under en veckas tid tillsammans med andra studenter från olika skolor i Europa. Vi anlände till ön på en söndag. Min grupp studerade gaelic och runor under måndag, tisdag, torsdag och fredag. På onsdag åkte vi på en tur runt ön. Vi gjorde ett Bríde-kors på tisdag. Det var Tomás Mac Sheáin och Jenny Pettersson som var ansvariga för undervisningen.

English: Visit on Achill Island from 5/2 to 10/2/2001

During a week, I visited Achill Island together with other students from different schools in Europe. We arrived to the island on a Sunday. My group studied the Gaelic language and Runes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday we went on a trip around the island. We made a Bridget cross on Tuesday. It was Tom Johnston and Jenny Pettersson who were responsible for the lectures.

German: Besuch auf Achill vom 05.02. bis zum 10.02.01

Wir besuchten Achill Island in Begleitung von Studenten aus Schulen in ganz Europa und blieben eine Woche. Wir kamen am Sonntag auf der Insel an. Unsere Gruppe studierte das Gälische und die Runen am Montag, Dienstag, Donnerstag und Freitag. Am Mittwoch unternahmen wir eine Tour über die Insel. Am Dienstag stellten wir Brigitten-Kreuze her. Tomas Johnston und Jenny Pettersson unterrichteten uns.

The attitude and experience of all those who participated during the week of activities can be summed up by the following quotation from the American Actor Alan Alda:

"Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself".

It was a wonder-full experience for all. We are already planning for our next visit.

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