When Father Collins first talked to me about the opportunity to go to Lourdes as a volunteer in July this year it was something that vaguely interested me but as I wasn’t going to be sixteen until the end of July it was something I put to the back of my mind. I knew back in January that my GSCEs were looming and I needed to concentrate on securing my grades for sixth form. A couple of weeks later I attended a meeting before Mass, albeit a little reluctantly. After a discussion with my Mum and a fair bit of encouragement from my Dad I realised that volunteering was a real possibility and something I felt I could do. I had many questions, with the majority of them being about whether I actually had the ability to do it.
I signed up, received an email from Ruth from the Youth Service and put the date in my diary for the first meeting. Prior to the first meeting I felt incredibly anxious. I didn’t know anyone. What would happen if I didn’t have anything in common with anyone? What would happen if no one talked to me? On the evening of the meeting I nearly backed out but I needn’t have worried. The welcome I received was so warm. There were people who looked exactly as I felt but by the end of the meeting I knew that going to Lourdes was something I not only wanted to do, but was looking forward to.
Throughout my journey to date not only have I gained experience, training and skills – achieving things I never expected I could I have – but I’ve also met a group of the best people anyone could want to meet, some of whom have become really good friends in a short space of time. And not having anything in common? We all have our faith in common. It’s been amazing to be with so many people who aren’t afraid to talk about their faith, their beliefs and their love of God. It has strengthened my faith and given me an opportunity to live out my faith as I volunteer helping others.
I know before I even depart for Lourdes the biggest step I have had to take wasn’t on my sponsored walk, or wade, across Morecambe Bay raising money to fund the trip, it wasn’t across the hills on my weekend team-building at Castlerigg or even learning to push a wheelchair safely up and down kerbs. It was the first step across the doorway of that very first meeting. I’m so pleased that I summoned up the courage and opened the door and my heart to a new and exciting chapter of my life.
I’ve already thought about future activities and Youth Service events I can get involved with and the only question I have now is ‘Where do I sign up!’.