Fast forward from my trip as a young person in 2013 to Easter 2016 and I found myself back in the bubble that is Lourdes – this time as a helper, still as part of group 216.
There are a few things in life that are almost impossible to describe with words… Sometimes the enormity of stuff is too difficult to do justice on paper, so people don’t even attempt it. But for this one, I think it’s important that I try.
Your trip to Lourdes doesn’t start and end in the week you’re actually on pilgrimage. It starts months before, with hours and hours of preparation and commitment from group leaders, group members and even the parents of the children. Helper or child, your group inevitably becomes a hugely special part of your life.
The first time I returned from my week of singing, contemplation and friendship in 2013 was incredibly special… I felt different, happy, and almost rejuvenated. There was no difference this time.
I witnessed the joy of the children from the little things: at cafe stops, having their face painted and ribbon braided through their hair at trust mass, even things as simple as seeing them loving life with hot chocolate round their mouth and beaming smiles all round. Sometimes, there’d be bigger changes that you could see within them as they reached out, made friends and grew in confidence. It was an honour to say that I was part of the team looking after them. The helpers in 216 are equally inspiring. Each one is as kind, funny and caring as I thought they were in my trip as a child. The week is fun.
It starts with singing on the aeroplane, you get to see some beautiful places, go to the mountains, play on the prairie with a parachute, wear a wacky hat with no shame, go to aquariums and most importantly, spend the week with people who are absolutely bursting with love.
It is a place where your worries are left at home.
I’ve just got back from the HCPT Manchester region reunion, and I’m so grateful that I was given the opportunity to reconnect with my group and that I was welcomed back into 216 so kindly. I have made some fantastic friends and looked after some incredible children.
For 216, HCPT Manchester, HCPT, children, helpers – thanks be to god!
PS – My friend Robyn is running the Manchester 10K for HCPT Manchester. Helpers pay their own way, but also have to fundraise for the cost of each child’s travel – around £700. Please consider sponsoring her to give more children this opportunity: https://www.justgiving.com/RobynYates2016