The Order of Malta’s 27th annual international summer camp for disabled youngsters took place in Britain for the first time this year. Some 150 guests from 22 countries around the world joined more than 300 helpers and friends at Bluestone holiday camp in the stunning countryside of Pembrokeshire in west Wales.
The helpers put on a busy programme of exciting activities which many of the participants would not normally get the chance to experience, such as go-karting, flying lessons, horse riding, hot-air balloon rides and scuba diving.
The guests were mostly aged between 18 and 30 and came from more than 20 different countries. In some cases guests came from countries where disabled people experience cruel treatment as part of their daily lives.
As well as the physical activities guests enjoyed a nightly disco, cultural events, sightseeing and an internet cafe. Masses were celebrated regularly and there was a Mass in St David’s Cathedral in the city of St David’s on the coast, where Matthew Festing, the Grand Master, and other senior members of the order, guests and volunteers, were welcomed by the Dean of the cathedral, the Very Rev Jonathan Lean.
All the guests and helpers piled into 13 buses and eight ambulances to visit Pembroke Castle. In glorious sunshine the Welsh Guards band performed a concert. There was a falcon display, face painting, supper in the castle’s massive keep, and a croquet competition, the Christopher Cup, which Spain won. The Grand Master presented the winners’ trophy.
Will Heaven was one of the helpers. He said: “You’ve got people coming from 22 different countries – people from all over the Catholic world.
“They celebrate for a week together and the helpers offer guests a range of activities that they wouldn’t normally be able to enjoy. It was really good fun.”
Among the supporters who spent time at the camp were General the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, the former Chief of the General Staff, Tim Orchard, a hospitaller, and Dom Antony Sutch, the former headmaster of Downside. The summer camp received support from the European Union Youth Programme.
The British Association of the Order of Malta goes on pilgrimages throughout the year: to Lourdes in May, Walsingham in September and Holywell in August. Members and companions visit these shrines with sick and handicapped pilgrims.
Then there are the young volunteers – the Order of Malta Volunteers (OMV) – who organise a pilgrimage to Lourdes in July. They run other projects and may be found at omv.org.uk. The hospitaller activities of the order are coordinated by the British association’s Hospitaller and through the Companions of the Order of Malta, a membership society open to all.