By Maria Bracken,
Kenelm Youth Trust

‘The Kingdom of heaven is close at hand’

The Andrew Robinson Young People’s Trust have ran a Winter Camp for the past seven years! Each year five days are given to 45 young people especially chosen by key staff from Coventry schools in disadvantaged areas of the city.

We try and make every day a real adventure, whilst creating a sense of Christian community. We pray together each day, share meal times around the huge tables in the incredible castle dining room, run day trips and we celebrate Mass and reconciliation. We have five days of incredible fun and laughter with experienced volunteers who give every waking moment to ensuring these five days are as special as they can be.

There was a great deal of excitement on the coach as it pulled out of Coventry on the first day of the February half term.

Leaders answered a billion questions on our journey as we got to know some of our VIP young people, all desperate to know what they were doing each day, who was sleeping in what dormitory and what the food would be like at Alton Castle?

During the Winter Camp we shared the story of Andy during morning and night prayer with the children. Under our theme, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand,’ we shared how Andy, despite the challenges he faced, never stopped trusting and believing in God’s love and plan for him. Andy gave up his career, his home and his path to married life, because he felt God was calling him to the priesthood. Whilst training for the priesthood, Andy was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.

One volunteer, Alex, spoke about how Andy faced this news and subsequent journey with a great deal of courage and cheerfulness. Andy stayed really close to God and grew in holiness through daily prayer and service to others.

Alex gave each of the children an ARYPT shield, so that they could wear it and always remember that what ever challenges they are faced with, they are never alone. That in bringing all that life throws at us to God in prayer, nothing will ever harm us, or frighten us, as with Him we can conquer anything.

So wearing our shields from day one, our little community stayed together for five magical days!

We faced the challenges of; the night walk, climbing, archery and biking at the castle; the laser quest tournament; the tobogganing at the Snowdome. Nerf Wars and the thrilling rides at Gullivers Kingdom. We also had some chill-out time together with an in-house movie night with popcorn, a day out at the Safari park and we even all went out to dinner at McDonalds. Each of these venues offered the trust incredible discounts and special rates for which we are truly grateful.

Many of the children said this was the best trip of their lives, they felt they had achieved things they never thought possible, that they had grown in confidence and felt really special in being chosen to go. Many had met new friends and had tried some activities for the very first time and some just wanted to stay at Alton Castle forever!

A huge thank you to our Master Chefs who cooked, baked and made packed lunches each day!

A special thank you to our team of ARYPT volunteers who didn’t stop giving with a joyful heart. Like guardian angels they spent five days walking with our VIP young people and were at their side building relationships and having so much fun.

This camp is made possible due to the hard work in fundraising by parishioners of St Thomas More, St John Vianney, Sacred Heart and Christ the King in Coventry, and St Peter and Paul in Wolverhampton. Schools like Cardinal Newman, Coventry, also run annual cake sales and have Andy’s Trust as their Lenten charity.

Local businesses have also made generous donations enabling this trip to run free of charge to all the children who take part. Thank you to all who support the Andrew Robinson Young People’s Trust with time, money or prayers. We ask God that it continue to be a beacon of hope and love to children in Coventry.