We are already well into January and I have started to ponder what the coming months (my final few at Animate) have in store for me. I have been a volunteer with the Animate team since August 2013 and in July, I plan to leave Lowe House to go and study music at university. I have never really planned far ahead in my life and I guess that is half the reason I am writing this article now.
I was born and brought up in the Catholic faith. By the time I started at St John Fisher High School in Wigan, though, I did not care very much for it – at least not until the Animate team of 2010/11 came to the school. That was the week that I remember thinking for the first time ‘I do believe in God’. I became this whole other person for a week and it was incredible. I felt there was a purpose to my life. We always say that our work is worth doing for the one young person who finds their faith through our help. And I think I was that person.
After that week I wanted to experience again that same enthusiasm and energy. I tried to pursue that feeling by going to Mass, by going to Lourdes on pilgrimage; each time I felt something that I struggled to describe – a sort of purpose.
As I was coming towards the end of my time in Sixth Form, I was not sure what I wanted to do, but the opportunity to sign up for Animate came along and I did not hesitate… and here I am, over 18 months down the line. When I arrived for my first day, I was so scared about what I had signed up for but I still felt this sense of purpose and I suppose that is why I never considered giving up. As my first year went along I really came to understand who I was and what I had to offer. By the end of it, I knew I had more to give and so made the decision to stay for another 12 months.
In July of last year I returned to Lourdes but once I got there, there was something different: this was not a bad different; in fact, quite the opposite – it was almost perfect. For the first time I was able to reach that same level of enthusiasm and energy that I had felt on my mission week as a schoolboy and since July my faith has never been stronger.
This is a special team and a special place and being here has allowed me to flourish and develop into a confident, faithful and strong person. And in December, I came full circle as, for only the second time, St John Fisher welcomed Animate for a mission week. The first time I had been a scared Year 11 pupil; now I was there as a fully involved member of the team. Indeed I found myself speaking with the pupils there in a way that I had not managed at other schools, in a much more personal way.
All things considered, the people I have met over the last couple of years – and more importantly in the last six months – have changed me for the better. I am excited about finishing this year on a high and just hope I can pass on something of the value of our work to the people I meet in the next few months and beyond.