A 16-year-old from West Belfast is taking part in a once-in-a-lifetime expedition to Antarctica – and she's even brought her hurl.

Aoibh Bradley from Upper Springfield has joined #WeTwoFoundation on a life-changing expedition undertaking wildlife and conservation initiatives. A student at Coláiste Feirste, Aoibh was one of 700 applicants who applied to the project and was one of only ten selected.

“She’s always been an eco-warrior but in her own wee way,” said Aoibh’s mother Michelle Bradley.  “She would always use a reusable bottle going to school, her sandwiches were in a box instead of tin foil and she uses shampoo bars. Even when she was getting new glasses, she bought from the recycled range.”

 

Aoibh participated in the Fridays for Future walk-outs organised worldwide by Greta Thunberg and is a member of the eco club at her school.

Aoibh Bradley with We Two Foundation
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Aoibh Bradley with We Two Foundation

As part of the expedition each individual gave something back to their local community with a pay it forward programme.

Aoibh who lives at the foot of the Black Mountain spent the summer volunteering with Belfast Hills Partnership.

“To be chosen to go you had to pay it forward,” added Michelle. “We would like to thank Belfast Hills Partnership. We worked with Laura and Julie and spent the summer volunteering with them.

“Belfast Hills Partnership prepared her from the Belfast end learning all about our native species and our trees here. It could have been anything from a litter pick one day, the next day we were in the tree nursery to removing invasive species, removing hogweed because it’s poisonous to the cows. 

She put the hours in in Belfast to pay it forward before she left.”

Now Aoibh is taking part in a 10-day expedition to the Antarctica with the foundation.

“On the expedition to Antartica they’ll be doing snow walks, they’ll be doing kayaking, there’s loads of lectures, information and learning and working with the microbiologists" said Michelle.

“They do animal spotting and birdwatching and report that all back and it goes into a global index.

“At the very minimum it’s going to be carbon neutral but they’re hoping it’ll be carbon negative the whole trip.”

Prior to departing, the team had met and planted trees to make the carbon neutral and in time carbon negative trip a reality.   

The team at Ushuaia
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The team at Ushuaia

The team left from London to Buenos Aires before moving on to Ushuaia and embarking on their sea journey to Antarctica.

Among those selected, the ages range between 16 and 19, with Aoibh being the youngest candidate. 

“She’s doing amazing. I can see her confidence has grown in the short week already. We’ve had a couple of wee video calls" said Michelle. “This was something special for her, an experience for her and she could go and find herself, enjoy herself, grow in confidence. 

Aoibh volunteering with Belfast Hills Partnership
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Aoibh volunteering with Belfast Hills Partnership

“I want other kids to know if you put yourself forward you can have good opportunities and you can’t let where you are from hold you back in any way.”

Aoibh, who has an All-Ireland medal for Gaelic football and is a keen camogie player, was given the opportunity to ask questions prior to the voyage. The first question she asked was ‘Can I bring my hurl?’

Since her arrival, Aoibh has been practising her camogie skills in Antarctica, bringing a bit of home to the other side of the world.