HCPT relies on thousands of volunteer helpers to provide care for the special children they take to Lourdes each year.  These helpers come from all walks of life, all ages and a variety of previous experience in caring for children.  The most important characteristic of a helper is the willingness to do whatever is needed by the child in your care to ensure they have a fantastic pilgrimage.
If you are interested in finding out more about what being a helper for a child in HCPT Group 170 means, have a look at the FAQs and read the account of a helper's day in Lourdes.   
To get in touch with the Group Leader and discuss whether you might be right for us and us for you, contact us at group170@hcpt.org.uk.
A day in the life of a helper with HCPT Group 170
Mornings in Lourdes start a bit earlier than I would choose for a holiday, but I drag myself out of bed and shower and dress quickly! It’s all made worthwhile when I am greeted by the smiling face of my child, ready for another exciting day of their holiday. One year, my child had a habit of waking about 5am and yelling until someone got him out of bed, so we set up a rota of early morning babysitters so that we didn’t have to get up so early every day! That said, he was at his very best in the mornings, cheerful and ready to play, so there was quite a queue of people wanting to get up early!

We get our kids up and dressed, and bathed or showered if we didn’t manage that the night before. The routine is made a bit easier by the delivery of a hot drink by our group leader! Then it’s down to breakfast and plenty to catch up on with the rest of the group, even though we only saw them about ten hours ago! After breakfast it always seems to be a rush to get everyone’s things together before we go out, even though we think we’re well prepared!

We do something different every day, my personal favourite being the Trust Mass for it’s riot of colour and noise! We have an official group photo taken, have group Mass, water liturgy, go to the grotto, visit the zoo, go up the mountain, play on the meadow and the all important café visits (usually with rowdy singing)! We also do an Easter scavenger hunt where we have to get our photo taken with groups of various different colours, in different places, with priests, nuns, group leaders and so on, which is a great opportunity to go and talk to groups we don’t know who always turn out to be friends for the future! Some time is also put aside for souvenir shopping, postcard writing and craft activities such as making animal masks or decorating our group candle.

It’s often a rush to get back for lunch, but afterwards we usually have some time to sort our stuff out ready for the afternoon adventure. When we get back to the hotel our group has a wonderful “quiet time” where the helpers have a meeting to discuss the day’s events, address any difficulties people are having and look at the risk assessments for the upcoming activities, and the children have some time in their rooms to either sleep, play quietly, or be entertained by some of our fantastic team of youth helpers who visit us daily from youth service groups and save the group helpers’ sanity!!

Dinner follows with more talking and the evening we have a party, sing some songs, or go to the torchlight procession or down to the grotto with our group candle. Once everyone is ready for bed we sit on the landing in our pyjamas, talk about our day, have a bedtime story and group night prayer before bed.

Once the children are in bed the adults can relax a bit, and if it isn’t our turn to stay in and babysit we can go out for a drink or down to the grotto for some peace and quiet. But it’s always worth getting to bed at a reasonable time as you know it’s all going to happen again then next day!

Overall, a week in Lourdes with HCPT is exhausting, but tremendous fun and hugely rewarding. It is amazing to see how much the special children in our care can grow in a week, and to see their faces as they have all these new experiences. It is truly humbling to see how hard their parents must work week in week out to take care of them, because I know I am ready to drop after only a week, and they keep on going for years at a time without a break. I love all the children I have taken to Lourdes and look forward to it as the best week of my year. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

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