Bluestone national park resort has just enjoyed the privilege of becoming the first venue in Britain to ever host the Order of Malta’s International Holiday Camp.
Around 560 people from 20 countries took over the whole of Bluestone for the week-long event, which caters for people aged 18 to 35 with varying levels of disability.
Bluestone’s guest services manager Sian Straczek, said: “Naturally, we were delighted that the Order of Malta chose Bluestone for this year’s camp.
“Making sure everything ran smoothly involved a lot of planning and a lot of work, particularly by our Food and Beverage and Housekeeping teams - but it was a privilege to have been able to hold this event.
“Our staff both enjoyed it and found it very humbling. We met some very special people and sharing such a memorable experience has helped bring our team even closer together. Some of our people are even planning to volunteer to help with the next camp.”
The IHC aims to provide activities that would not normally be accessible, and this year, such activities included hot-air ballooning, and scuba diving in Blue Lagoon.
Of the 566 people who attended this year’s IHC, 113 were wheelchair users. There were 207 helpers including 12 priests and 18 medics, 88 Order of Malta staff, 18 bus drivers, 45 VIPs, 33 friends and family. Other attendees included samba dancers, band members, St John Ambulance, firemen and scuba instructors.
The Order of Malta’s communications officer, Gilly Orr, said: "The 27th International Holiday Camp of the Order of Malta was a huge success.
“The week at Bluestone was enjoyed by guests, helpers and staff, many of whom had never been to Wales before. A number of the foreign teams said the accommodation this year was of a particularly high standard and, when compared to other camps, made the week feel like even more of a holiday.
“The highlights were the Mass at St David's, Pembroke Castle, Oakwood Theme Park and the trip to Whitesands beach, where many guests were thrilled to be seeing the sea for the first time. The many happy memories from the International Holiday Camp will remain with all participants for many years to come."
The Order’s liaison officer, Anne-Marie Jubber, added: “It really was the most incredible week and all the feedback we have been receiving is amazing. Everyone at Bluestone was a real pleasure to work with and nothing was too much trouble.”
With origins dating back almost a thousand years, the Order of Malta is the oldest Catholic religious charitable order in the world. Today, it has 13,000 members worldwide and works in the field of medical and social care in more than 120 countries, including running hospitals and providing emergency relief.