In March Hugo Whyte (R12), former Chairman of the Order of Malta Volunteers (OMV) returned to Downside to discuss the benefits of the OMV Pilgrimage to Lourdes with the Upper and Lower Sixth Form as part of their Lecture Series.

The OMV is a UK group of volunteers aged 17 to 29 who offer up some time and money to help others, such as holiday and religious pilgrimages for sick or disabled adults and children. Their activities focus on breaking down the barriers between the able and less able.

Hugo left Downside in 2012 after spending five years in Roberts House. On leaving the School he chose to study medicine and now works as a doctor in Salisbury Hospital. For the last four years he has been able to balance his busy work life with the role of Chairman to the OMV. Over the last two years he completed a country-wide Present Delivery in time for Christmas 2020, a Virtual Easter Pilgrimage and the OMV Summer Festival. 

Hugo said that his first OMV Pilgrimage to Lourdes was, and still is, the best week of his life. He returned to Downside in the hope to encourage and inspire the next generation of pupils to volunteer. 

Downside School has been a proud supporter of the OMV since its inception and gets heavily involved in the annual OMV pilgrimage to the world-famous city of Lourdes. The pilgrimage is a feature in the lives of generations of Downside Sixth Formers and Old Gregorians. Those who join the pilgrimage express how much they enjoy their time helping others in need, forming lasting friendships, and deepening or exploring their faith. At the same time, the pilgrims gain invaluable personal and life skills which they carry into their university years and life beyond. Many volunteers return to join the pilgrimage year after year, such is the quality of the experience they share at Lourdes.