Wayside Club Christmas Party for the Homeless

As a Caritas student, on an early 10 am December Sunday, I gave up my time to help with a Christmas party at St. John’s Church. This Christmas party wasn’t a typical one as it was organised for the homeless in our community. At this point, I hadn’t really put much thought into the Christmas party and didn’t know what to expect.

Around 15 other Caritas students and I arrived at St. John’s before the guests. We were put to work quite quickly – we spent quite some time sorting a huge bundle of clothes into piles of male and female. We then put the clothes in bags with other essentials such as toothpaste and deodorant. This wasn’t really the job I thought I would have been doing but we all worked as a team to have everything sorted in time.

5 other Caritas students and I then had the job of serving the food to everyone that had arrived. For the starter, we had given out bowls of soup. When I went from table to table, I noticed that there were always one or two people at each table who would pass their soup over to someone else. I realised that they were making sure that everyone else had theirs before they did. This was quite amazing to me despite it being such a small act of kindness. It just shows the selfishness of people who essentially have nothing to give. On top of that, I don’t think I’ve heard so many ‘thank you’s in such a short period of time. It was clear how grateful those in attendance were. Next, we served the main, then the desert; by the end of it, there was hardly anything left of it all.

We then had a karaoke and so many joined in, both the guests and Caritas students. Personally, I believe it was great for them to have had a social gathering. I’m sure many of them will tend to feel lonely, especially during the festive seasons. I noticed how much their days were brightened up and realised how much some homeless people would appreciate even a smile and a conversation if we were to see them on the streets. We then distributed all the bags of clothes and utilities we had made up earlier on in the day. I couldn’t help but think that their reactions were comparable to those of a 5-year-old on Christmas morning – a sight that broke my heart and mended it straight afterward.

With it being such a busy day, it was only when I was home and tucking into a Sunday roast that I began to reflect on the hours just passed. I tried to put myself in their position and attempted to comprehend the daily struggles they may face every day. I found it unbelievably impossible! However, I do know that on that day, along with many other great people, I helped make the day of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. And the price I paid? A few hours out of what would have been a day full of procrastination – nothing. Yet, I got back so much and I’m sure the other students who went would definitely agree. The people I was surrounded with that day were like you and me; the awful truth is that homelessness could happen to any of us. So, why wait to start caring when it’s you? Some of these people rely heavily on the community they’re in and have nobody else. Our school already does so much to help the homeless community out. We donate to foodbanks yet we never realize the impact this truly has. I’m so grateful to have been able to see the changes we can make.

I think it’s amazing that St. John’s Church in Stevenson organises this and I know everybody appreciated it. I encourage everyone to be more of an active role in their community and to help people who need it. You might not get anything materialistic from volunteering, but you gain so much insight and an appreciation for what you have and take for granted. Not to mention how much of a difference you’d be making in someone else’s life.

By Chloe Robertson

The Give Me 5 Campaign

What is it?

Give Me 5 is a campaign which aims to increase child benefit by £5 which could lift 30,000 children out of poverty. An additional £5 a week could cover 7 nutritious breakfasts of cereal, milk, fruit juice and a banana; or over two months, a good quality winter coat or enable to take part in school trips or an activity each week.

Why did we decide to help?

As a group, we decided to help the children who are in poverty to give them a better life so that they can have better opportunities. This could help enable them to get the grades that they deserve and lead to them being successful in their lives. Also, we wanted to show that children living in poverty are no different than any other human and is of no less value. As Christians, it is our duty to help those in need whenever possible. We learn this through the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus teaches us that anyone in need of help is our neighbour and we should strive to help them regardless of race, sexuality, gender or religion. Raising awareness for a campaign such as the Give Me 5 campaign is exactly what Christ calls us to do.

What did we do?

The Caritas students at St. Matthew’s Academy created multiple presentations and delivered them to all year groups through assemblies and presenting in classes. Some pupils also went out to different primary schools and parishes to talk about the Give Me 5 campaign and raise awareness. After all of the presentations, we collected signatures from those who wished to support the cause. We also encouraged people to email their local MPs to further raise awareness.


As a result of all the hard work of the Caritas students, we have managed to spread the word and get nearly 1400 signatures which were then presented to Bishop Nolan.

By Rebecca Williamson and India Cairns

Volunteering at a Soup Kitchen

Heather, Rebecca, Maddison and Niamh at the Wayside Club

Shortly before Christmas, I was one of the Caritas students who visited Glasgow’s Wayside Club. Myself and three other girls travelled up on a Tuesday evening to help assist the dedicated volunteers, many of which have been helping at the club for many years. The club wouldn’t exist without these selfless individuals who have devoted themselves to helping others. We spent three hours at the club, helping to prepare and serve the dinner for the homeless frequenters and even helping to run their nightly bingo game, a much anticipated and intense game that is enjoyed by all.

When we were informed in our Caritas classes that this opportunity to volunteer at the Wayside Club would be available, I felt driven to sign up because it felt it was a more direct way to volunteer. It allows you to see first-hand how an act of charity impacts on the lives of others.

Although I had previously taken part in the Wayside Christmas dinner at St John’s Church, before we arrived there was a nervous feeling I couldn’t shake. Luckily, all the people who made use of the club’s services were so polite that this quickly disappeared.

All the volunteers were especially kind and welcoming, and the experience was quite eye-opening to the goodwill of the people of Glasgow. The club is entirely funded by donations, and we were informed that local hairdressers and barbers would visit and offer free haircuts. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a local Pret-A-Manger donated sandwiches and salads to the club.

It was an extremely worthwhile experience, and I would definitely consider returning to volunteer again.

By Niamh McLaughlin



P1030685The girls before the bake sale!

Who are they?

SCIAF are the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund. They are the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in Scotland. They are inspired by Gospel, guided by Catholic social teaching, reach out with love to global neighbours in need regardless of gender, class, race and religion. They are strongly driven by their values of dignity, empowerment, solidarity and hope.

Their vision 

A world without poverty, where the poorest of the poor can survive by equipping them with the tools and teach them the valuable skills they need in life. With their values they believe that in caring for the whole person, including emotional, spiritual wellbeing, political voice, culture and community life, as well as how they support themselves and their families. They want to help people to be in control of their life and be able to provide for themselves and their families, learn skills, live in peaceful communities with power over decision which may affect them so they know their full potential. SCIAF work with local organizations and charities overseas so people who need the help the most will get it first. And closer to home they inspire schools, public and parishes to all work together to build a better future for all, especially those who need it. They want to help the poorest of the poor to thrive.

Real gifts 

Real gifts are a great way of giving an ethical gift that makes a difference in the world for people, their lives and communities. When we buy a real gift we are providing something that is of vital importance to families that live in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The idea behind SCIAF’s real gifts is for people to support the charities work in poor countries around the world by making donations instead of buying a present for a relative or friend that may end up being unwanted. SCIAF real gifts provides lots of essential items from school books and farming tools to chickens and goats. They even provide a water lifeline to help farmers keep their crops alive.

What we are doing to help

We have held a bake sale in school to help raise funds so we can buy real gifts for those who need them most. As a school we can help buy smaller items like seeds, books, blankets, tools, farm animals and a shelter for a family. We could put the money all together and buy something bigger for a community or we could buy lots of little gifts to help those in need.

P1030689Barely anything left! What a successful bake sale!

How did we really help?

Through our bake sale we raised £106.20. A lot more than we had anticipated. Using the money that we raised, we purchased real gifts from SCIAF. This included chickens, warm blankets and emergency water supplies among many other things. It is important to remember that the bake sales we hold are not for nothing. Sure, it’s great to be able to purchase some home baked goods. However, your money is having a big impact on the lives of those less fortunate than us. We’d like to thank everyone for the donations given.


The letters received to confirm the purchases.

By Maddison Mayhew, Rebecca Crossan and Rebecca Williamson

Lourdes – The Experience of a Lifetime

The summer of 2017 was a big one for me. I went on my first trip abroad without my parents. Now, it’s not what you think. It wasn’t a big holiday with a group of friends clubbing somewhere sunny. Actually, it was quite the opposite…

1st photo The official Youth for Lourdes photo for 2017.

I first heard about Youth for Lourdes late 2016 when Fr Jim came to the school to talk about it. He told us that Youth for Lourdes was a Catholic organisation that sent youth (16 – 23) over to Lourdes to assist pilgrims and explore their faith every 2 years. It was a 10-day trip that would cost us £650. It sounds like a lot, I know. However, the money doesn’t come out of your own pocket. It comes from fundraising, whether that be a bake sale, sponsored walks or curry nights! It was hard work but we all managed it. Plus, if we ever had any problems with ideas, the team were always there to lend a helping hand.

I went with the Galloway and Dumfries Diocese. I had agreed to go with a friend but honestly, I was still terrified. Around 50 youth went this year and I was worried that maybe we’d clash or just simply not get along. However, you aren’t really going with strangers. The amazing Youth for Lourdes team organise multiple meetings throughout the year before you depart on your journey. This gives you a chance to get to know one another, to check on how you are doing with your fundraising and to learn more about where you’re going and why. I loved these meetings because it helped me to feel more at ease about going away without my parents and I met so many amazing people. The meetings were always lively and fun as there were ALWAYS some little ice breakers. At first, they felt very abnormal and awkward but towards the end, you were just having such a good time that you forgot you were completely embarrassing yourself. Also, it helped that halfway through the 3-hour meetings, we got some snacks. However, way faster than I expected, we reached the last meeting and finally our trip was in our sights.

photo 2Our blessing mass where we received our badges and uniform.

Before I go on to talk about the journey to Lourdes, I believe that it’s essential to talk about why Lourdes is such a special place. On 11 February 1858, a young girl by the name of Bernadette Soubirous was with her sister and her friend looking for wood. When the other two girls went through the cold river, Bernadette decided against following because of her persistent asthma. She reportedly heard “a noise like a gust of wind” but “none of the trees were moving”. She looked up to see a young lady in a hollow of the rock (where there is now a statue) who looked at her and smiled. At this time the Grotto was dirty and damp, known as the “pigs’ shelter” because the pigs feeding in the area. This is where the Virgin Mary (Immaculate Conception) appeared to Bernadette. In total there were eighteen apparitions, spanning from February to July. You learn more about these at the meetings you attend for Youth for Lourdes. You also get the chance to take an assisted pilgrim and yourself through the Grotto. You must remove any hats and be quietly respectful. You get the chance to run your hand along the wall which is incredibly smooth after many people doing exactly this. I feel the Grotto looks especially beautiful at night as there are candles lit and a light shone onto the statue of the Immaculate Conception.


Our rainy mass at the Grotto.

I feel I should also mention that Youth for Lourdes have a dress code. You can buy a polo shirt which comes with a Youth for Lourdes logo on it, or you can buy a hoodie (which is BRIGHT red) or a poncho sort of thing in case it rains. However, you get a free polo and are expected to wear a polo shirt whenever you are on duty. You can also bring plain white polo shirts, but I feel for picture day it looks better if you have a Youth for Lourdes polo shirt on. You also cannot wear jeans or leggings. It’s preferable that you wear dark trousers or a kilt if you so wish. Make sure that these trousers cover your knees because it’s frowned upon to have exposed knees in the domain. When they tell you it’s best to bring old trainers to wear on duty, listen! You will have an identity card and emergency numbers on a lanyard. You must always wear this on duty and when entering the domain. Personally, my favourite part of the uniform was the two badges we were given. They now have pride of place on my school blazer!

Now, I won’t lie. The journey to Lourdes is exhausting and endless but also fun. I was the first pick up point, lucky me! I had to be at St Matthew’s Academy at 5:45 AM at the latest! I am not a morning person and never will be, so you can imagine how horrified I was when I found out the news. After a couple hours of sleep, I was off in my onesie, armed with a blanket, a backpack and a suitcase. The word “excited” doesn’t even begin to capture what I was feeling when I first saw the bus. After getting on the bus, we had a few other stops until we eventually wound up in Dumfries. The journey there overall took around 2 hours, and can I just say, everyone in Dumfries is so lucky that they didn’t have to make the journey up there. I am still insanely jealous of the fact that they didn’t have to wake up at an ungodly hour. However, when we got to Dumfries, we were greeted with rolls and bacon. I think it’s safe to say that that right there was probably my favourite part of the 36-hour long journey. After our breakfast, we took a group photo and then we were truly off. It was happening, there was no turning back now.


Everyone bright eyed and bushytailed in Dumfries at 8am, ready to head off!

After a long drive, we boarded the ferry to France. This gave us a chance to socialise a bit more and stretch our legs. Also, we got to freshen up which was very needed. After around an hour and a half, it was back to the bus. I wasn’t unhappy per se, I just really wanted to get to our hotel. I know I said that this bus journey was fun, and I am well aware how bad I am making it sound at this point. However, the bus gave us a chance to watch movies, mainly musicals which included a lot of singing along. It also provided us with even more time together. Now, you’d think we’d all be sick of each other at this point, but I think we may all have been a bit too fed up and tired to really experience that. It also helped that everyone there was entirely unique in their own way and, as a result, there was never a dull moment. The bus journey, for me, was full of short lived naps, crazy sing-a-longs and cherished memories. After a day and a half, we were in Lourdes. This was it. We were here. Now the adventure was truly beginning.

Now, I won’t give you a play by play of our week there. I won’t lie, I can’t remember every single moment exactly. Instead, I’ll give you some of my highlights.

Now, meeting the pilgrims was an experience of its own. I was nervous about what the assisted pilgrims would be like. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that everyone was lovely. I really shouldn’t have been surprised. Everyone else I had met had been lovely, why wouldn’t the people we were helping be? I had a somewhat regular pilgrim that I would assist. She was hard of hearing and could see very little and was also a complete sweetheart. Despite wheelchair training, I was horrific at steering at the beginning of the trip. This woman tended to laugh about it and jokingly complain about how much I would run up peoples’ heels. Luckily, I eventually got better at it and it was smooth sailing from then on. Anyways, the pilgrim I usually assisted had come with her friend. They had been friends since school and they had such an amazing friendship. They helped each other if they had any problems throughout the day, they bought candles for each other and were always asking for each other. Everyone’s experience with the assisted pilgrims is different, however, I believe they are always positive. I consider the assisted pilgrims my Lourdes family, as well as the group I went with and all the other volunteers.


Our team leaders and some of the pilgrims at our goodbye party.

I believe the Lourdes experience is a very religious one, but you do not have to be religious to attend. You will have to go to church at least once a day every day whilst, however, they just become second nature whilst there. I strongly advise that if you get the chance to go to Lourdes, whether it be with Youth for Lourdes or another organisation, then go. You won’t regret it. They warn you of the impossible-to-shake Lourdes Blues. You don’t think much of it at the time, however, in the last six months since returning, I have found myself missing Lourdes time and time again. Just writing this article makes me wish I was right back there in Lourdes!

I have barely touched upon what happened at Lourdes so if you want to find out more, see more photos or get some information about the next pilgrimage, then head along to the Youth for Lourdes (Galloway) Facebook page. Whilst you do that, I’ll be counting down the days till the next pilgrimage. I can’t wait for the summer of 2019!

By Chloe Anderson