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By Imelda McQuaid - 14 November 2017
“Looking at it, a flight to a different country is a great adventure and life experience. I hope to take advantage of this moment and experience and learn and discover. And also appreciate."
These are the wise words from one of Depaul’s young ambassadors, Memory, who travelled from Manchester to Bratislava earlier this year, along with seven of her peers, to volunteer with Depaul Slovensko.
For almost 18 months a group of young men and women worked together, alongside the fantastic staff of the Your Chance team in the North West, to plan, fundraise and travel to Slovakia.
The entire trip was financed through fundraised money, much of which was facilitated by the young ambassadors themselves.
Some braved the 5am starts to sell donated goods at car boot sales. (Unfortunately, the bacon butty van seemed to make more money than us!)
While others baked endless cakes and rice crispy buns to sell at a series of cake sales, then ran marathons and 10kms to counteract the cakes.
The two long days spent at Parklife was the most lucrative, however.
Through our colleague Dave’s networking skills; we received 10 tickets to sell for the event as well as a free stall for the full weekend. Our young ambassadors offered face painting to the festival-goers as well as keyring-sized Polaroid pictures, so the good times could be captured and treasured.
We learnt to our peril that Outkast’s lyrics, ‘Shake it like a Polaroid picture’ are quite unhelpful, seemingly the exposure to the light hinders the photo development. But thanks to the occasional dissatisfied customer, we learnt that lesson fast! The customer service offered by young people was second to none.
Some very kind colleagues in the North East also got involved in supporting the adventure by baking, and not too begrudgingly, eating cakes, endeavouring to help out with reaching the fundraising target, which was greatly appreciated.
One staff member even stepped into the boxing ring, the shock of which led to some really generous support, of the cheering kind as well as sponsorship.
You may imagine the fundraising aspect was the most challenging part of the process, and although it required a lot of hard work and commitment from the whole team, applying for passports and visas presented a whole new set of challenges. Thanks to a lot of wider team work, anything that could be done was done to ensure each young person could safely travel.
The planning and preparation, that was the real journey, was now at an end. And we successfully made the journey to Bratislava. and the
Our Bratislavan adventure began with a guided tour of the interesting projects ran by Depaul Slovensko, with our fabulous host Mariana. The visits were summed up nicely by Nathan who said: "Visiting the homeless shelter really opened my eyes to a different way of life. They have little funds and it’s truly inspirational to see how much they can do with so little; or even use the building that in our country would go to waste.“
The week was split between hiking in the Slovakian hills and tackling a mountain of clothes in the night shelter, to sort them into useful categories. The young ambassadors worked incredibly hard and completed way more than expected by our hosts.
One anonymous entry in the group journal stated: “We went hiking and it was brilliant. The scenery was breathtaking and it was challenging. Well, I like a good challenge. It was great to discover new language, food and currency. I hope opportunities like this one come along again. I loved everything in Bratislava; it’s a good, happy and fantastic place.“
Eight young people stepped out of their comfort zone and boarded the flight to Slovakia with their heart’s and minds open to adventure. They returned having developed a whole new level of confidence and their hearts and minds filled with memories and hopes for the future.