Bursary Funded World Youth Day Trip

For two weeks in the summer, I attended World Youth Day, with support from the Kendrick Travel Bursary. I fund raised for the trip and the money I received from the grant ensured I could reach my target. World Youth Day is a global gathering of Catholic young people that happens every few years and, despite its name, it actually takes place over two weeks and culminates in a huge Mass. In Portugal this year, there were around 2 million of us and experiencing this universal joy of faith, exceeded all my expectations. 

I am not a camper by any means, the Year 7 Bushcraft trip was the start and end of my camping journey, but on the penultimate night of our trip we rolled out our sleeping bags on an old industrial wasteland and went to sleep. The ground was covered in large angular pebbles and the queues for the portaloos were long but as I watched the sunset through the dust in the sky and walked through thousands of flags all pitched up to mark people's areas, I felt a sense of peace. Despite the crowds being far greater than at Reading Festival, I felt incredibly safe. I don't think that there are many other times when there could be such a huge gathering of young people that is quite so civilised. I had a better night's sleep on that wasteland than I did in the whole of the first week.  And to make it even better I woke up at 7.30am to a DJ priest playing a remix of 'Hallelujah' which was absolutely brilliant. An hour later the Pope drove past on the popemobile - 2 meters away from me!

Walking back from the Vigil site we went through a crowd of Americans who had a whole band, and were just singing.  In the first week, our coach didn't turn up, so a dance circle formed and a group of Venezuelans taught us their popular chants while we waited. In a queue for food I met a girl from the Czech Republic who told me all about her love for Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen and on a train, a girl from Boston asked me what time I take high tea and I had to explain that we didn't really do that.  My French GCSE skills came in handy when a man, who had trekked from somewhere in France for World Youth Day, needed help with directions while we were sat at the back of church. 

Going on the trip showed me that my faith is not something outdated and boring where I must resign myself to not understanding Latin hymns for an hour every Sunday morning, but instead it is a global force for change and good. It may be in decline, and members of the Catholic Church may have said and done some cruel things, but that is not the faith that I saw amongst my peers while we were there. 

We played volleyball with Polish nuns and Brazilians and Slovakians in the baking heat and blew bubbles with children from a tiny village school and danced to traditional Portuguese music with people in a care home.  I've made a few friends for life and connected with so many young Catholics from around the world and it is so, so nice when I see them pop up on my Instagram feed with what they have been doing since. 

Catholic or not, I strongly believe that most teenagers would have loved our trip.  The buzz and uplifting mood meant you couldn't help but be positive, and everywhere we went, there were people to talk to. It was strange coming back to England and not striking up a conversation in the queue for coffee or stood on a bus or offering to trade a bracelet. We had huge outdoor masses and I don't love a long service here in England, but over there a two-hour mass passed in no time. Kneeling under blue skies with thousands of people who have all dedicated months of fundraising to do the same thing as you, with flags from nations scattered across the globe, was a beautiful, humbling experience. There were so many people leaving the masses that conga trains formed and in a high five tunnel leaving an opening mass, I met another girl from Kendrick who had come with the Portsmouth diocese! The atmosphere of jubilation was infectious. It made me feel small and simultaneously part of something huge. 

Overall, I had the most incredible experience and I will remember it for the rest of my life. This is my last year at Kendrick, but for all younger students, I would 100% recommend seizing the opportunities that the Kendrick Travel Grant and other bursaries give you. We are very lucky to have them.

Amelia - Year 13