When people think of Pilgrims, the first thing that comes to mind is WOW!!
Everything is WOW: the food is WOW; the lessons are WOW; the activities are WOW; the evening extravaganza is always a WOW; the staff are WOW; the students are WOW; even the weather is WOW (although this may be stretching the imagination just a little).
Then we think about the Pilgrims motto – make friends, speak English, have fun. And it is on the first of these points that I would like to focus on today. At Pilgrims, we always talk about how we spend our time, and trying to make sure that we spend it with people – especially those who are most important to us.
In this post, we would like to tell the story of four remarkable young gentlemen from the four corners of Europe. The first to come to Pilgrims, as a small, nine-year-old boy, was Juan, who quickly establish himself as a firm favourite amongst the staff and students alike. The following year, he was joined by Abdouallah, a shy young French boy who spoke no English at al, but had a charming smile which helped him to win friends easily. Needless to say, the mischievous pair soon became good friends.
The following year the twosome became the Three Musketeers, with the addition of Hubert from Poland. The moment that won Hubert over to the veteran pair was lunch one day. As we sat, quietly enjoying the lovely Kent College food, Juan and Abdouallah burst into the Dining Hall, screaming for help. A concerned member of staff immediately sprang into action, and followed the boys as they sped off down a corridor. The staff member found Hubert in a bathroom, with one of his milk teeth hanging by a thread and a sense of horror and dread on his face. As they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed, and in this instance, Juan and Abdouallah certainly stood up to the task, as they screamed and shouted, and urged poor Hubert to pull out his own tooth. This spiritual doping gave Hubert the courage to pluck the poor tooth from his mouth, and a firm friendship was formed.
The following year D’Artagnan (in the shape of Nathan) joined the Musketeers, and our foursome is complete. A sign of just how well the boys were getting along was that, while Hubert arrived at Kent College on time and happy to be back, his luggage had somehow gone to southern Greece. Most young people in such a situation would be distraught. Not Hubert! He simply helped himself to his friends’ belongings and was quite disappointed when his belongings finally did arrive. The pity of the matter was that, being young boys away form home, the addition of Hubert’s things to the general mass that already existed created a scene of utter chaos, which even the cleaners baulked from tackling. What the calm and polite young Nathan thought of all this I have no idea, but he did come back the following year.
This was the first time that the four put in a specific request in advance to share a room together. Luckily for us, we do not have any four berth rooms at Kent College, so we settled on the compromise of two twin rooms. Arrivals day was going very smoothly, and I was sitting in my office doing a little paper work, when the view from my window was clouded by a rain of items from the window above. I wandered out into the garden to investigate, to be met with a whole pile of clothes and shoes. I looked up to see Juan, Abdouallah and Nathan grinning out of the window at me. In response to my enquiry as to what on Earth was going on, I received the innocent reply from Juan: ‘Nothing much!!! We are just helping Hubie to unpack!!’ And this typifies the boy’s friendship: as soon as they arrive, they enter into some good-natured banter and can make fun of each other, knowing that the two weeks they spend together will be amazing because they have each other.
Of course, they have grown older, and in many senses have grown up too. But when they come to Pilgrims their inner child is released and they are able to have fun in each other’s company, and whatever happens, they will always remain the best of friends.
To me, this is one of the most amazing aspects of working with Pilgrims. We get the chance to come back year after year, and see the same young children developing into amazing young adults. But not only do we see the individuals grow, but also the friendships, which, as Nathan said, ‘will certainly last a lifetime.’