Best Wilderness Experience

Mark wrote this response to our request for grads to share their RedCliff wilderness experiences. We thought you might relate:

hi, my name is mark and i was in redcliff 8 years ago now, i still dream of my memories of that place, i find it amazing how we take so many simple things for granted and redcliff has a way of opening your eyes to the beauty of the world and eachother, the power of recieving letters from your loved ones and being able to read them 1000 times and get a different meaning every time is just magic,

i come from ireland and to be honest at first i would never of considered this place for me to go, i didnt speak to my parents and done everything to push them as far from my life as i could, one day they asked me to sit at the table on a monday and told me about redcliff and that an oppurtunity had come up for me to go on thursday, after months of not speaking to my parents i physicaly broke down in tears as i couldnt believe that after everything i had done they still loved me enough to try and allow me to help myself, i knew i had to do this so i decided to go

i joined a group called the ravens, i found it strange at first everyone being called iron wolf and whispering eagle and so on lol, i remember my first experience was when we went to sit for dinner and i asked where is my fork and the leader said go find a branch and make one, i thought this was a joke but they were serious, pulling splinters from my lips on my first nite was not what i was expecting lol

i found myself growing very jealous of the other members in my team as it took me over a month before i bowed my first cole, the sense of accomplishment over a cole was overwhelming, passing my first 2 phases in the folder i never thought id be so grateful of salt and pepper lol

when i arrived at redcliff i saw myself as a sheep but as time went on i seen myself as a shepard, i led our group and provided support to other members in the team, i couldnt believe i was a leader. i made such an effort to keep everyones spirits up and used to sing a song, anyone reading this who knows this song will remember who i am = ill tell me ma when i come home the boys wont leave those girls alone, they pull my hair and stole my comb but thats alright till i go home, she is handsome she is pretty, she is the bell of belfast city, she is counting 123 please will you tell me who is she = i couldnt believe the sense of pride i got when i recieved my name ( Discover Fire Starter) after it took me so long to get my first fire i made it my goal to get my fire badge which i did, to be 1 of only a few people to of achieved this makes me very very proud

this whole experience has completely changed my life and the person that i am, i love life again and love me for me, you all are wonderful people and i have nothing but respect and love for what you have done for me, you will stay in my heart forever and i will return to work for you to give back what i got

id like to leave you with a poem i wrote on solo that still to this day makes me cry when i read it:

as i lie here now and the rain hits my head, i remember long ago wishing i was dead, those thoughts hurt and all of that pain, wouldnt leave my head i drove myself insane, but suicide wasnt the answer my family was, they helped me day by day, to them i give my applause, no matter what i did they still kept strong, even through the drugs which i did for so long, as i sit here now i realise what ive done, so ill stay and face my problems no longer will i run, cos runnings what i did i ran from my fears, i ran from my worries and from my parents tears, because it was my blindness that stopped this in the past, but im part of a family again and this i will make last, thinking of them now it is clear to see, im no longer just mark, i am mark halpenny,you have made me realise who i am inside, my thoughts now warm my heart and fill me up with pride, because as i lie here now and look at stars above, i realise theres only one drug i want, and thats the drug of LOVE!!!

thanks again for taking the time to read this, i will never forget what you all did for me and one day i will return the favour, thats a promise!!!