When I agreed to do SOS again this year, little did I know how different it would be. The size of the group was considerably larger for a start, yet this by no means diminished the very personal, spiritual meaning that the camp held. We were very privileged this year to be joined by volunteers from several European countries, and have the biggest proportion of foreign people yet on SOS. The team-building exercises at the beginning proved to be of great value, in breaking down the language barriers, as well as bringing people out of their shells, and fully integrating with all the participants. Although these were by no means conventional exercises, they certainly gave us the opportunity to experience the true personalities of each other, namely a simply ridiculous game of football involving 4 teams, 4 goals, every participant and 4 pairs of goggles which simulated intoxication.
The next two days consisted of work for the sisters, in and around the grounds of Brettargh Holt: cleaning, scrubbing, painting, and throwing furniture off the roof of the Haven.
Friday gave us the first opportunity to take our skills into the big wide world, and so we set off early in the morning in our big yellow bus, wearing our big yellow t-shirts, for the Salesian Parish at Bootle. This truly was venturing into the unknown, as no-one had any idea where we were going, or what we would be facing. Yet, we went out with smiles on our faces, and returned still with those smiles. Each one of us thoroughly enjoyed doing work for people who were so incredibly thankful.
Savio house was the next port of call where we had our evening meal, and after a good night‘s sleep, set to work about the grounds. It is a brilliant feeling to work so hard towards something, especially as a team and create something that many people can benefit from; everyone chipped in to complete re-vamping the front path before the end of the day. It was amazing to see everyone working together as a unit, with no one person delegating tasks or taking a leading role. Everyone simply knew exactly what they had to do. Empowered by the simple addition of loud music and mutual encouragement, a mammoth task was made almost easy.
Our day of rest entailed of our annual excursion to Sherwood Forest; a chance to recuperate and get our aching limbs back in motion. This was followed by another excellent barbecue, courtesy of Ant, Zel and Tom.
To finish the camp, the sisters welcomed us back at Brettargh, thus we set about tying up the loose ends, touching up the paintwork and general cleaning, each of us with that sobering feeling of something great coming to and end. The final Mass of Commission was by no means a solemn occasion, and was a celebration of each others achievements, with presentations to each of the members of the team and the sisters.
There was no greater payment than seeing the smiles on the faces of the people we helped, and experiencing their gratefulness. Quite by chance the other day, I met a lady whilst at a garden party in the north of Cumbria whom we helped by redecorating her living room, and on the moment of reintroduction, began enthusing to everyone around her about what an incredible help we had been to her.