Bristol, England 11th – 14th August
The annual Bristol Balloon Fiesta is one of the largest international hot air balloon festivals in Europe, attracting around 80,000 visitors each year. Eike Hundhausen from Johanniter Germany travelled to Bristol to join the team of St John, which provided three treatment centres, foot patrols and ambulances across the four days. Here is what she reports:

“When I arrived at Bristol the evening before the event started, I tried to imagine what to expect:
Dozens of hot air balloons, ascending early in the morning and glowing at night to the rhythm of selected music compositions, attentively followed by an audience of countless thousands of people. I wasn’t wrong with this imagination.
Although my shifts started at noon and ended late in the evening, which did not allow me to watch the spectacular scene in the morning, I enjoyed the night glows even more.

On the shuttle bus from the hotel to site every morning I got to know new staff members. Volunteers from different districts in the UK appeared to assist, sometimes for only one shift, sometimes for a couple of days. There came from Manchester, Liverpool, Dorset, London, Cardiff and Birmingham and I often found myself in the middle of various dialects struggling to follow at least ONE of the conversations that surrounded me.

As the temperatures seemed to increase day by day, most of our patients suffered from the heat, insect bites, and were exhausted or dehydrated. We did our utmost to make them feel well again.

Despite the heat outside as well as inside the treatment centre, I enjoyed my stay to the fullest. It has been one of the hottest weekends but a fantastic experience!

After my last shift on Sunday, John Ashworth, my foot patrol partner that day and his lovely wife Helen invited me to a sightseeing tour by car. Unfortunately, it was already getting dark, but we managed to take a quick look at many places of interest in Bristol city before I left for the airport the following morning.

Volunteer swaps are perfect occasions to learn more about the structures of Johanniter units abroad. Moreover, you make new friends and find out that the big international Johanniter family shares one fundamental idea: to help people who are in need.

Thanks to Johanniter International for this experience. Thank you, Naomi Chillingworth and Stewart Coulden-Smith, for having me on site. Thanks to all St John’s colleagues I met during my stay. It has been a pleasure to work with you, and I definitely plan to come back for the Bristol Harbour Festival next year.

Oh, by the way: please, do not forget to practice the German words „Anspülspritze“ and „Schleifkorbtrage“ ! See you again !“