A group of Lancashire schoolchildren have a much greater understanding of the challenges faced by people in developing countries after experiencing life in Africa firsthand during a trip funded by the Turing Scheme.
Ten 14 and 15-year-olds from Accrington Academy spent two weeks in Malawi, in the southeastern corner of the continent, discovering what school life is like for their Malawian counterparts as well as visiting a refugee camp and supporting various community initiatives.
What left a lasting impression on all of the Year 10 pupils as they returned to the United Kingdom to continue their GCSE studies was the huge difference in living standards and how many more benefits and advantages they had in life than African children.
Experience I will never forget
Pupil Ethan, who went on the trip, said: “I’ve learned so much about the differences in what areas you live in and how much people appreciate even the littlest things. I realise how fortunate we are and that we should be happy with the things we already have. It has encouraged me to give more and not take things for granted.
“This was an experience I will never forget. The amount of memories I will carry with me from the amount of people I have contact with from Malawi, and will continue to talk to, is more than I can ever have wished for.”
Fellow pupil Elizabeth said: “I felt overjoyed and was really excited to be going with friends when I was chosen to go to Malawi.
“From my experience there, the impression left on me is empathy for those who didn’t have stuff that I take for granted. I was impressed by how the people of Malawi were so happy with whatever they had. I now see things in a different light and take less for granted.”
During the trip the pupils, and accompanying staff, took part in lessons at their partner school, Bishop McKenzie International School (BiS), in the capital city of Lilongwe as well as undertaking a range of cultural and social trips and activities such as taking part in a school swimming gala, enjoying a safari, an overnight stay in a jungle lodge and experiencing many local customs.
Gaining confidence and self belief
Many of the activities were designed to also be of benefit to the communities the group were being hosted by and engaging with, including painting an orphanage, helping at a refugee camp, helping with local upcycling and recycling projects, including on the shores of Lake Malawi, and teaching younger children about education and culture in Britain.
Teacher Will Aitken, who organised the trip and was one of two staff who accompanied the pupils, said: “It was the most amazing and humbling experience we have ever had as students and staff.
“It was an absolutely amazing experience for our children. Two of the ten we took had never travelled out of the UK before, others had never been away on their own and many had never even imagined experiencing something like this.
“They learned independence and how to manage new experiences. They learned resilience and also how to support each other in new situations.
“They have definitely gained more confidence and belief in themselves, as well as empathy for others. They understand that, although it may look like others do not have as much, it does not mean that they are not equally as happy as people.
“I think this experience has opened up so many new opportunities to our children. They now believe that they can go anywhere in the world and that there is more out there than just their home town. Their aspirations have improved and this, in turn, will help them to become better rounded young people.
“It has been an absolutely amazing experience and something I cannot recommend enough to other schools.”
Find out more about opportunities for schools under the Turing Scheme