Richard, from Group 5, shares what a day in Lourdes is like: "All helpers play a vital role within their group every day. They each have responsibility of a child, either solely or with another helper, and try to help that child to have the best experience. Everyone contributes to the group dynamic and each person is an essential part of the group family in their own special way. Each HCPT group is unique because of the people in it.
The day will usually begin with a fairly early wake-up call. Once you’ve managed to drag yourself out of bed, you need to make sure that you and your child are both up, out and ready for breakfast. It’s important that you have a good meal to start the day. A day in Lourdes is very tiring so you need to have as much energy as possible. After breakfast, the Group Leader gives the plan for the day, this may include a trip to the seaside, a day riding on donkeys in Gavarnie or one of a number of things that happen during the week. Everyone then quickly gets ready and prepares for the day ahead. Days in Lourdes are very unpredictable, so it’s important to plan for every weather condition and eventuality, so that you and the child you are caring for are ready for whatever the day throws at you.
Each day is filled with activity and is as much fun for the helpers as it is for the children. There are games, a ride on a road train and a tour of Lourdes, to name a few activities. We visit the domain on most days; this is the area that surrounds the Grotto. You may go to the Grotto itself, light candles or go to the taps for Lourdes water. You might have to answer a lot of questions from an intrigued child or explain things to those who don’t know or have little experience of church. It’s vital that everyone in the group feels involved.
After a busy morning it’s lunchtime. All meal times are important parts of the day, not just as a refuelling process. They are also an opportunity to have conversations with different people within the group and to enhance the family atmosphere. This isn’t always possible during the busyness of the normal day.
During the day there are cafe stops where everyone can have a drink, a sing-song and a laugh. HCPT cafe stops are famous in Lourdes and nobody does them better than the Manchester Region. Everybody sings lots of songs, many of which have funny actions. They are a big part of the week and many great memories have been made in the cafes of Lourdes. The region has a lot of talent and those helpers who are gifted musically can contribute in a big way during the cafe stops by leading a song or playing an instrument. All helpers play a role in these situations, maybe by encouraging a child to lead a song themselves or by helping a child who is a little shy to come out of there shell.
Over the week, there are plenty of wonderful Masses and services. They are celebrated within individual groups or as a region and help to unite everybody. They are filled with singing and excitement and are probably different from anything you would experience at home. There is also the huge Trust Mass where everyone, from the whole of HCPT, gathers for a celebration of the week. Masses are another opportunity for helpers to get involved and to demonstrate their talents. They contain beautiful liturgies and these are prepared by some of the helpers. At night, there may also be night prayers: these are quiet reflective times and a chance for everyone to stop and think.
On a couple of the nights there are parties for the children and helpers. Groups usually have a fancy dress party with games, music and entertainment. There’s also a disco for everybody in the region. When the day has ended and all of the children are in bed, all the helpers meet in the group room, which is on the same floor as the bedrooms. Here, they can discuss what has happened during the day and also raise any questions that they might have. Plans for the following day can also be made. It’s also a time that the helpers can relax, have a chat and share funny stories from the day. Then, just as you’re about to drop off, you go to bed, filled with excitement at the prospect of another day with HCPT."
"HCPT is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I think everyone should experience"
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