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ACROSS is a charity which takes seriously ill and severely disabled people by Jumbulance to the Christian Marian shrine at Lourdes in south west France. Priority is given to those in terminal illness and those confined to a bed or wheelchair.
A Jumbulance is a unique road vehicle especially constructed to provide long distance transport for persons whose medical or physical condition makes normal methods of travel either impossible or impracticable.
It has seven beds and eighteen seats to provide maximum comfort, a fully equipped kitchen, and a fully accessible toilet, which makes it completely self contained. It carries oxygen, a limited supply of disposable and medical supplies and is fully air-conditioned. A hydraulic lift provides access for those in wheelchairs or trolley beds.
An ACROSS group consists of 25 persons. 10 of those are VIPs, those who are sick or disabled, and the other 15 are volunteer carers, chaplain, nurses, doctor and helpers.
Each pilgrimage lasts ten days with eight full days spent in Lourdes. The Jumbulance travels throughout the night and all meals are served on board, so there is no need to have lengthy stops.
There are two types of groups. A national group is comprised of individuals who apply to ACROSS to travel on any one of their many pilgrimages which depart on various dates throughout the year from Easter to November. Individuals are responsible for their own expenses.
A local group is a group organised by a society, parish or organisation which arrange their own carer team and choose their own VIPs. The local organiser is responsible to ACROSS for the cost of the entire group and different groups have different methods of raising funds.
National groups start in the north of the country, sometimes in Glasgow travelling down the M6 or A1/M1 as appropriate. They uplift travellers en route at convenient motorway service stations. London is circumvented and pick up points are on or close to the M25.
The departure point of a local group is determined by the organiser and is normally a convenient location in the group’s locality.
Travellers are responsible for their own transport arrangements between home and the Jumbulance departure point.
The complete group stays at a specially selected four star hotel with facilities for disabled persons. The preferred hotel is the Méditerranée, within easy reach of the Grotto where ACROSS has installed hospital beds and has a stock of equipment including wheelchairs and hoists. Occasionally another hotel might be used.
The equipment required and the special vehicles used are expensive. ACROSS is constantly fundraising and is grateful to their supporters for the voluntary donations which defray some of our expenses. The Trustees of ACROSS set a requested contribution from every pilgrim at an affordable level, and additional costs are met from central funds.
In 2015 the requested contribution from every traveller, which is fully inclusive of transport, meals and drinks en route, full board and meals in a four star Lourdes hotel, transport in and around Lourdes (but not sightseeing further afield) with the support of British staff 24 hours per day but not including insurance is £707.85. Insurance is available at a cost of £42.15 - this is inclusive of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT).
On national groups, ACROSS can provide nurses and carers with a limited subsidy from donated funds. A special fund - again with limited resources is available for young carers. Other subsidies for VIPs are possible from external agencies and the office staff will be only to happy to provide details.
Local groups often organise fundraising events and may be able to assist with some costs.
Travel Insurance is available to purchase from ACROSS. If you choose to purchase your own insurance you must provide the office with details. Every traveller must have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). These are free, apply at www.ehic.org.uk or call 0300 330 1350.
ACROSS is an appointed representative of ITC Compliance Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (their registration number is 313486) and which is permitted to advise on and arrange general insurance contracts.
No! Whilst ACROSS has the facility to take heavily dependent persons to Lourdes each group is made up of persons with varying degrees of illness or disability. Those who are most in need of the Jumbulance facilities will always be given priority, but the inclusion of those with lesser disabilities allows the carer team to devote more time to those who need it.
Each VIP will share a room with a helper or if necessary a nurse. Care is provided 24 hours per day.
By all means - carers are welcome to accompany you, however they must realise that the group as a whole look after each other and their remit is much wider than just caring for you. It is not always possible for husbands and wives to share rooms.
An ACROSS group is very tiring and demanding of carers. A lot of stamina is required to provide a holiday atmosphere as much as a pilgrimage, and the carer team must have the capability to care for the needs of the VIPs. There is, however, room for carers with minor medical complaints, and for those who perhaps are unable to lift or push wheelchairs. In order that a balanced team can be created, this must be declared on the application form.
Every group requires a medical team and willing helpers, especially fit strong men for muscle power, but groups are made up of persons with various degrees of caring experience. None is essential! What is required is a willing heart and a willingness to provide unselfish Christian love not only to the VIPs but also to other carers.
Contact the group organiser at the office, 01499 302715 for an application form stating whether you are a doctor, nurse, helper or chaplain, or unable person.
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