Instead of spending her Easter holiday at home relaxing, Shauna Mcgee decided to go on a trip to Lourdes; but this was no ordinary holiday. Shauna was volunteering with the charity HCPT, a charity which gives young disabled people the opportunity to take a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and also enjoy themselves on holiday with other young people.
Shauna was assigned to look after two brothers, both of whom have severe autism. As this was the second year that Shauna had volunteered for this trip, she had already seen the positive impact that it has on the young people. She had looked after the older brother last year and commented that “the previous year he refused to eat and interact with other children but this year he was the centre of everything.” Even just one week had a great impact on his younger brother, Shauna said “at the beginning of the week he kept away from the rest of the group, but by the end of the trip he was cracking jokes and making everyone laugh.”
The group took part in different activities everyday including, going to a petting-zoo, horse-riding, going to the beach and visiting Hossana House, the organisation’s residential centre which is located in the stunning Pyrenees Mountains. The group also enjoyed playing lots of games, activities and dancing throughout the trip. For some of the more disadvantaged young people, it was the first time they had ever been on a holiday and were extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience lots of first-time moments such as, packing a suitcase, going on a plane, and going to the beach. Not only did the trip allow young disabled people the chance to have fun, it also gave their parents and carers a week of respite while the volunteers took care of their children.
Shauna found the experience extremely rewarding, especially seeing everyone enjoying themselves and getting to know other young disabled people in their local area. It was also valuable for Shauna’s education as she wants to study Occupational Therapy at university next year, and before this trip she had little experience working with disabled people. She says that the experience “has opened my mind as I do not know many disabled people outside of the organisation, so I tended to be over sympathetic unintentionally, yet I soon realised they are the same as us. It is something I’m ashamed of doing, however this experience enabled me to change my mind-set.” Most of all she felt humbled by the immense gratitude the young people showed to the organisation and the young carers.
Shauna was able to fund the trip with thanks to a £200 Individual Grant for Volunteering awarded to her by the Jack Petchey Foundation, she worked hard to fundraise the rest of the money herself by hosting quiz nights, cake sales and even a horse racing event.
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