Nisha, 17, from Preston writes:
This summer 10 young people and 6 adults from St Clare’s Parish, Preston, travelled to a poverty-stricken former Refugee Settlement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. ‘Hodovo’ has been our parish and primary school ‘outreach’ project for a few years now. The people there were ‘ethnically cleansed’ from other parts of the former Yugoslavia during the recent civil war. We carried on the work started by the Kendal parish. Over the years the settlement has been provided with: a sports play area, a bakery, a clinic, fresh water supply, a school library facility, PE and other school equipment. We have also sponsored the young people there to come to the UK on two occasions.
Our task this time was to paint the classrooms of the primary school and in two days we managed to transform the rooms with blue and white paint. While we were painting, some of the children in the settlement came to see what we were doing and some teachers also visited. The boys played football together (the Croatians won every game) while the girls played volleyball in the gym. A young lady, with an excellent talent for languages, translated what we wanted to say. Although there was a clear language barrier, we still managed to make good friends with the children, who were similar ages to us.
After this our time in Hodovo, we travelled to the shrine at Medjugorje for the Youth Festival. In the evenings, we joined thousands of young people for the Youth Festival events. I truly felt the presence of Our Lady, in the beauty and peace of the area but also in the friendly people around me. It was incredible to see so many young people from many different countries who shared my faith and it gave me hope that Christianity will never die. Some of the events we attended included a procession of all the flags of the world, a night full of singing and dancing, led by the nuns on a stage and a show hosted by the Cenacolo Community as well as Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. A special moment for me was the singing and dancing night, as the crowds united with one voice and the same actions to praise God.
I have learnt a lot from this trip, made connections with new Croatian friends and strengthened my faith and I believe this is the same for everyone who came. I want to thank St. Clare’s Parish for giving us this amazing opportunity to go to two very special places and represent our diocese in Hodovo and at the Medjugorje Youth Festival 2014.