Six pupils from Saint Joseph LaSalle Toulouse went on an exchange visit with pupils from four other European countries. It took place in Portugal from the18th to the 25th of June this year, and we were hosted by the two establishments of the De La Salle network in Portugal, Braga and Barcelos.
The theme for the exchange was solidarity, and the aim was for them to share with the other 14-to-16 year old pupils about what life was like in their countries, namely Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France. Before setting out, we were asked to prepare for the visit by discussing and working out a specific action of solidarity.
All the teachers responsible for the class were mobilised to develop the action plan. The pupils’ idea was to do something to help children in hospital. After contacting the hospital authorities, we realised that it would not be possible for us to actually meet with the children in hospital, but we would be able to provide them with games to occupy themselves during the times in between treatments. Consequently, our pupils organised sales of sweets we had made and of flowers we had grown in our greenhouses so as to raise the money we needed to buy the games.
The preparation period also gave our pupils the chance to work on their English in order to be able to make a presentation of the work they were taking with them to Portugal. Once we arrived there, we had lots of activities ahead of us. There were cultural activities for us, like the visits to the church of the “Bom jesus” and to the magnificent gardens of Braga and the visit to the pottery museum in Barcelos with its famous cockerel. We also had the chance to do some sporting activities, including an orienteering run in Braga, a morning of various sports and games and another morning when half of us went horse-riding and the other half went swimming in the ocean. All these activities were a way of promoting contacts and exchanges.
We were also able to meet with some of the Portuguese aid associations for people in difficulties and to make an active contribution to them. Every evening, each country took its turn to present some of their food specialties. In addition we discovered the Portuguese tradition of ‘St John’s Night’, when thousands of people take to the streets in Braga carrying little plastic mallets to give those they meet a tap on the head.
It was a visit that was rich in discoveries and in which firm friendships were made. The final evening before our departure was one full of emotions and tears of joy.