Guernsey Press

Founder marks 40 years of ‘Jumbulance’ holidays

A local woman is marking 40 years of involvement in a charitable initiative which provides holidays to disabled islanders.

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Pam Bartlett, 84, founded Guernsey Jumbulance Holidays in 1984. She went on the most recent Jumbulance trip to Lourdes in France last month. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 33279372)

Pam Bartlett, 84, set up registered charity Guernsey Jumbulance Holidays soon after volunteering as part of a version of the charity based in Jersey in 1984.

The week-long holidays see a group of 10 people with disabilities – known as VIPs – along with 10 carers, two nurses, a doctor and a priest, all travel to a pre-booked destination on a ‘jumbulance’, a coach-cum-ambulance which has eight stretcher beds, a small kitchen, toilet facilities, resuscitation gear and other disability-friendly equipment on board.

The charity alternates its trips between a visit to the pilgrimage site of Lourdes in the south of France and another, different, destination each year.

They are funded by a number of events put on by the charity throughout the year, including a quiz and a race night.

Mrs Bartlett recalled how inspired she was to set up the charity in Guernsey following her experience of volunteering as part of the Jersey initiative.

‘I got involved through St John Ambulance and looked after a lady, and I really enjoyed it,’ she said.

‘It made me realise how much Guernsey could do with something like this, so I set about getting a team together and began advertising in the Guernsey Press.’

The most recent Jumbulance trip to Lourdes in France earlier this month. (33279374)

She estimated that the charity has taken more than 300 disabled people on almost 40 holidays since the first in 1985, the Covid pandemic having prevented trips in 2020 and 2021.

Some of the countries visited over the years include Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, while the charity also managed to secure tickets to watch some of the sporting events and closing ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics in London.

And the biennial visits to Lourdes, a small French town near the Pyrenees mountains, have proven to be popular with the VIPs and carers.

The town is considered to be a special place to visit by pilgrims, especially Catholics, because it is believed that spring water from the town’s grotto can heal people if they are sick.

‘Our trips there always fill up quickly, it’s a place of healing and those who go get so much out of it,’ Mrs Bartlett said.

She was part of the charity’s most recent holiday there last month, but this time as a VIP, having delegated the running of the charity in recent years to her daughter, Karen, and chairman Dean De La Mare.

‘We attended an international mass with about 8,000 other people, while we also took part in a torchlight procession and an English mass,’ she said.

Reflecting on how far the charity has come since its inception, Mrs Bartlett was pleased that a new leadership team was in place to continue running the holidays, and was eager to thank the many individual and corporate supporters who had supported the charity’s work over the years.

‘I’m amazed it’s gone on for as long as it has, but I’m so glad it’s carrying on and it’s great that we’ve still got people who are wanting to help out,’ she said.