I first travelled to Lourdes with ACROSS in August 2012 having spotted the request for helpers in our parish newsletter. I must admit at that stage I knew very little about Lourdes and had never even heard of a Jumbulance!
As the date approached I began to feel anxious about what was ahead of me and worried that I would be too young to be of much help to the VIPs. However, as soon as I boarded the Jumbulance at a service station on the M6 I realised there were several young helpers on the pilgrimage. For some it was their second time travelling and they were very happy to show us rookies the ropes.
The 28 hour journey was definitely a challenge but there was a great atmosphere and sense of camaraderie among the VIPs and helpers. By the time we reached the hotel I felt I knew everyone on the trip well.
The week in Lourdes was very busy and I was asked to help the nurse to look after a lady with multiple sclerosis. I helped with showering and dressing, pushed her wheelchair and assisted in any way needed. Thankfully, she was very patient with me and I felt humbled.
During the week we had Mass in a different church every day, visited the Grotto, bathed in the baths at the shrine and took part in the Torchlight Procession. We even travelled across the border to a Spanish beach for some sun-bathing and swimming.
The pilgrimage was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life and I felt privileged to have spent a week with such fantastic people. My trip also counted as the ‘Residential’ component of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and as valuable caring experience for my application to medical school.
I was delighted to be asked back as a helper this year and have just returned from another wonderful week in Lourdes. This time I was an “old hand” and it was my turn to support some of the younger helpers on their first trip. The VIPs, leaders, nurses, helpers and chaplain bonded straight away and the pilgrimage was again thoroughly enjoyable.
This time we even took to pedalos on the lake!
The week passed far too quickly and I made so many good friends. I learned so much not only about how to care for the sick but also a lot about myself in the process. I have so many happy memories and would encourage other young people to give it a go – you won’t regret it!