Forget fad diets, this woman is making a meaningful new years resolution

Kelly O’Brien is tired of not sticking to her new year’s resolutions. So this year she’s committed to a challenge in March that will incorporate three of her goals for 2016

Every year I make a new year’s resolution, and every year I break it.

I resolved to take driving lessons, to exercise three days a week, to save more money, to lose that extra stone, or two, and to maybe, just maybe, if I have time, learn how to cook in Italian, speak in French and write in Haiku.

I told myself 2015 would be the year I’d quit my job to travel the world, this would be the year I’d finally complete a dry January.

I achieved none of these goals.

I’m still car-less, still overweight, still relatively ignorant of any language that isn’t English. My cooking is atrocious and my Haikus are dismal.

Growing not unreasonably disillusioned with my resolve- fail-repeat pattern, I contemplated giving up the tradition entirely.

But then I thought, isn’t trying and failing better than not trying at all? Surely striving to better yourself can only be a good thing, even if it’s only for a day, or a week, or a month?

So I put aside my reservations and came up with three resolutions — get fit, travel, give something back.

Forget fad diets, this woman is making a meaningful new years resolution

Instead of sitting back, dusting off my hands and calling it a day, I asked myself if I would really stick to these resolutions.

The answer was no.

They were too vague, too easily sidelined. They were good resolutions by all accounts, but I felt it wouldn’t work unless I had something a bit more concrete, something I absolutely could not back out of.

And then, like divine intervention, I received an email from Mike at Plan International Ireland, a charity I began to support last year.

Forget fad diets, this woman is making a meaningful new years resolution

Personally, I’m involved in the sponsor-a-child programme, which connects you with a child in a developing country. I sponsor a two-year-old girl in Myanmar and the experience could not be more rewarding.

Being a child sponsor gives me a window into the work of Plan International. Sponsoring Zin Thwe Phyo is more than a direct debit, it’s a two-way relationship that has opened my eyes to the challenges children, especially girls, face in low-income countries.

It has also shown me the great work organisations such as Plan International are doing to help children reach their full potential.

Mike’s email was not directly about sponsorship — it was a more general notice informing me of an upcoming trip to Vietnam called Cycle For Girls. He said Plan International had a number of projects in the area and wanted to invite child sponsors to join them on a 10-day trip to Northern Vietnam.

The journey involves a flight into Hanoi followed by six days of cycling through remote mountain villages.

It’s perfect, I thought. Sign me up!

The trip, which is due to take place in April, ticks off my travelling resolution, of course, but it also constitutes giving something back.

Not only will I get to see the work Plan International does in the area, and help out with some local projects while I’m there, I’ll also get to write about the experience, thus raising awareness and, hopefully, inspiring others to get involved with Plan International and their projects.

In this year alone, the charity has trained more than 100,000 teachers, rebuilt almost 3,000 schools, and invested €87.5m in education.

While it works on initiatives all over the world, it has been working in Vietnam for the past 22 years, focusing on improving early education for children in remote areas by training teachers and getting families and communities involved in child protection and education services — a project I will shortly get to see in action.

Now, it’s not lost on me that the cycling element of the trip, a total of around 250km, means I have to get fit as soon as possible, thus fulfilling my third and final resolution.

Forget fad diets, this woman is making a meaningful new years resolution

Step one is to get my diet right — cut out fizzy drinks, alcohol, junk food and fast food and eat more fruit and veg.

Step two is to increase my daily activity levels — walk or cycle to work instead of getting a lift, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and walk around during breaks instead of eating at my desk.

Step three is going to be the hardest to keep up — go to the gym, for at least an hour and a half, three to four days a week. I have little more than 12 weeks to whip myself into shape, but, perhaps for the first time in my life, I’m fully committed to fulfilling my new year’s resolutions which have been so neatly wrapped up into one big, potentially life changing event.

The flights are booked and this article is written, so there’s backing out now. I literally have no choice but to fulfill my resolutions, which is, I think, exactly what I needed.

For more information on Plan International Ireland, or to join Kelly in sponsoring a child, go to www.plan.ie. A number of places are also still available on the Vietnam trip. Get more information on www.plan.ie/vietnamcycle or by emailing rachel@plan.ie.


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