I remember the first time I went to Trinity College Dublin. It was my leaving cert year and I had been invited to the Trinity Ball. As I stepped through the gates, the noise of the traffic disappeared and the grey cityscape was exchanged for the magnificence of the Exam Hall and the music of Strauss. I remember feeling as though I had been transported into a perfect oasis.
Last week while driving to the SEI Bootcamp, I was battling with traffic and listening to radio reports of corruption, inhumanity and cruelty. But stepping into the Ryan Academy brought back memories of my first experience of Trinity College, as once again all the noise of daily life disappeared and I entered another oasis. This is a place where exceptional people come together to celebrate the safe havens they have been building for others. Whether they are helping children to achieve their dreams, supporting the families of prisoners or protecting the independence and dignity of the blind; these are selfless people, driven by the desire to create real change and an oasis for the recipients of their work.
The presentations we heard were all very different in style and content but there were common elements. Each presenter spoke with passion and told stories filled with the emotion that comes from a genuine commitment to something greater than oneself. They were also characterised by a warmth and humour that comes from doing something that you love.
This was the second time I had the privilege of attending the SEI Bootcamp. I have stayed in touch with many of the people I met last year. We have worked together, supported one another and become friends. Last year I began with tentative introductions, this year I shared warm hugs with old friends. I have already received emails from some of the social entrepreneurs I met this year and I am excited about the new relationships I am starting to build.
Whatever happens next, I will always be grateful that I am part of a community working so hard to build a better future. Who knows, maybe one day all those tiny oases could meet but until then I know that we will all keep building.