Students prep more than 275,000 World Youth Day backpacks

Sydney, Australia, Jun 12, 2008 / 08:26 pm (CNA) .- Over 2,500 high school student volunteers are packing more than 275,000 backpacks for World Youth Day pilgrims at a packing center near Sydney. So far, over 200,000 have already been packed.

The backpacks contain items such as World Youth Day 2008 books, a pen, a bandana, a ‘Pilgrim Passport’ containing vouchers for McDonald’s and stores at Sydney Airport, a clip-on koala, tattoos, a poncho, a kinetic flashlight and a thermal blanket.

Each backpack also contains a set of rosary beads.

Upon arrival at the center, student volunteers are provided with a brief history of World Youth Day, undergo a short training session in safety procedures, and watch a demonstration of a backpack being packed.

Each student receives a backpack for him or herself at the end of a packing session.

“We are really pleased to have the young people of Sydney playing such an important role in preparing for World Youth Day,” said Geoff Morris, World Youth Day 2008 Director of Pilgrim Services.

“This is the perfect example of how the schools, parishes and wider communities are all coming together for a common cause. That is the whole purpose of World Youth Day,” he said.

Lina Maroun, World Youth Day 2008 Warehouse Coordinator, said on the first day of packing the students exceeded their target of 7,000 backpacks by 1,000. The next day, they packed another 10,000.

“The students now have a really good understanding of the significance of World Youth Day 2008 being hosted in our city. They are so excited to be part of the event preparation,” said Maroun.

Most of the backpacks will be sent to the around 400 accommodation centers around Sydney where pilgrims will stay during World Youth Day. Some backpacks will be sent to Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra for the Days in the Diocese celebrations that occur in the week preceding the event.

About 500,000 people are expected to participate in World Youth Day events between July 15 and 20. The event marks Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to Australia.