I was keen to get involved with the Phoenix Days holidays as they aim to offer young people from ‘poor’ home and family backgrounds the chance of a week’s holiday which they might not otherwise get. And I know what poor means…it means having no money, being skint, borassic…and so such an activity through a congregation which aims to support the young AND the poor within a Church with a preferential option for the poor kind of ticks my boxes. I truly believe that last summer’s Phoenix Holidays achieved this basic Christian aim. With about thirty young people from around the country spending a week enjoying themselves through canoeing, going to Camelot, leading prayers, toasting marshmallows on bonfires, swimming, building survival shelters, competing in talent shows, film nights, museums, country walks and loads, loads more, Don Bosco’s top tip on becoming a saint – where step one is to be happy – was met. With financial and spiritual support from various strands of the Salesian family, countless volunteered hours and contributions from the young people’s schools, young people who were poor where given the chance of a holiday which they probably otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. Job done.
‘Till I was talking to one lad who said he was off to France on the day after he got home. Someone else said it’d cost them £100 to come and that meant they couldn’t get a new game for their computer. And another was spending big money in the gift shop at Camelot. In truth I was a little miffed as this wasn’t what I’d signed up for – I’m a socialist and I know what poor is and I don’t have loads of holidays to spare either. One of the schools who brought a group hadn’t seen ‘poor’ in the way I had – they took the opportunity to bring a young person who was at risk at home, someone who would benefit from spending time with a completely different group of people, people who needed an opportunity to shine, those who’d lost a close family member.
They were right.
I went home happier, and humbler (a bit) and determined that the Phoenix Days holidays should happen again – bigger and better for 2011. We’ve made a great start on recruiting a team, we still want your money and need your prayers and there’s a massive amount of work to be done to get things ready for all those who’ll come on holiday in July. I truly believe all of the young people – the spiritually poor, the quality-family time poor, the financially poor – went home happier and a little bit richer too.