Lourdes trip for charitable child nursing student Liam

A nursing student at Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences has expanded his expertise and experience by travelling to Lourdes in France as part of a Catholic charitable trust.

Child nursing student Liam Dando was approached to volunteer for the Hosanna House Children’s Pilgrimage Trust’s annual Easter trip to Lourdes.  Every year, the Trust takes children and young people living with severe illnesses/disabilities on holiday, providing valuable respite for their families.

Liam, who had previously travelled with the Charity as a child, knew from his own experience how special the trip could be for children coping with ill health.  After volunteering, Liam was introduced to Tom, a teenager living with complex care needs.

Liam said:I started preparing for the trip from November when I was first approached. This required me to attend meetings with the other volunteers in my group. There were twelve volunteers in my group and between us we looked after six children. We were introduced to the children/young people that we were looking after and met with their families, visiting their homes every fortnight before the trip to really get to know each other.”

After flying to Lourdes from Bristol, Liam was responsible forhandling the luggage and making sure all of the children and their cases got to the right rooms.  He said: “After settling in, the group met and explored the area around the hotel. For some of the children this was the first time for them to be away from their parents.”

The group took part in daily trips which included the Grotto in Lourdes, as well as several other places known for religious significance. They enjoyed parities, nights out and café stops and attended the National Mass where every group from the Charity came together to celebrate in an underground basilica.

Liam said: “there were thousands of people there, all singing together and enjoying each other’s company. It was really uplifting to see such poorly children having such fun.”

Liam’s nursing skills were drawn upon throughout the trip.  He said: “My volunteering responsibilities included washing, dressing, feeding and all other fundamentals of care Tom needed, in addition to more specialist care required for his condition. It was the first time for me to care for someone with an illiostomy bag, and it made me appreciate how important it is to make sure patients’ dignity is always respected. Tom had the cognitive age of a five year old and I had to make sure that I remembered that when I cared for him.”

Liam added:This trip gave me confidence that I could manage to care for a young person with profound complex care needs in a way that made sense to him, and made me realise that the fundamentals of care are so important.  It has given me confidence professionally and improved my clinical skills. It was a great experience that I am sure will help me in my future career.”

The Hosanna House Children’s Pilgrimage Trust is a catholic charity that takes children aged 0-18 to Lourdes every year.