Nine students from Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA) left the UK on the 13th of February for a 10 day trip of a lifetime to Uganda. Their mission was to help the charity RETRAK, which has a number of projects helping street children in Kampala who have been displaced from other communities through persecution, or who have lost parents and family to AIDS or HIV.
The students were selected for the AfriDACA project through a procedure which involved interviews and presentations, as part of which they had to explain how they would assist in group fundraising events and activities to help secure funding for the trip. The nine year 12 and 13 students chosen – Amber Riley, Rhys Frayne, Holly Ballantyne, Hayley Dickinson, John Meadowcroft, Matt Phillipson, Liam Dargan, Nicole Bond and Courtney Sanderson – all contributed £400 from their own funds and helped raised the £16,000 target to finance the trip. £2,000 was donated by the Africa Relief Trust and entrepreneurial fundraising activities ranged from bag packing in local supermarkets and book and cup cake sales to Sportsman’s Dinners and sponsored car washing.
In a packed programme the students experienced delivering sports workshops on the streets, in adapted schools and in safe houses for the street children; helped with literacy and numeracy skills; and assisted with the building of a vital medical centre in the most practical way possible – through making the bricks!
The students and trip leaders, DACA staff members Mr Paul Earnshaw and Miss Jessica Coy, kept in contact with home via their blog www.daca.uk.com/afridaca-blog . A set of reflections on what one thing they had each learned from one particular day included:
“No matter what you should always be happy. They are living in such poor conditions but they are always happy – we live in big houses by comparison but we moan about so much.”
“You can live off bare essentials and make new things out of recycled items and they can be really pretty.”
“Touch is big thing and helps to connect people. Even without words a touch or hug can make you feel wanted.”
“You can make a living off things that the west throws away. Never come across people who are so resourceful in all my life.”
“Be friendly to everyone, everyone was so smiling and welcoming and it makes you feel so much more welcomed in the community.”
“Good to be less hostile and less judgmental with people, they treated us so lovely right from the start and like part of their community.”
“Our country hides too much behind computers and things and trying to focus on looking good. Uganda shows that there is a better way as they are so much happier than at home.”
“The value of friendship and relationships and love. Seeing the children looking after each other, in the UK we are so protected but here they look out for each other.”
“To be emotionally strong, -at home we get upset over stupid stuff, but here they smile despite the living conditions –we need to man up in the UK.”
“I waste so many things at home and here there is no waste – they reuse everything.”
The trip is the second such overseas experience run by the DACA, following a visit by 19 sixth formers to New York City in 2009, which challenged perceptions of affluent America by visiting schools and social enterprises in the Bronx.The Academy’s sponsor, the Aldridge Foundation, promotes life-changing experiences for students through its Opening Eyes programme. Founder Sir Rod Aldridge said: “‘I believe travel, like entrepreneurship, can be a powerful and immediate means of opening young people’s eyes and minds to new experiences and different cultures. It challenges the way they view themselves and the world around them. The students and staff at DACA have done a superb job in planning and raising money for this trip, which I am sure will a life changing experience for them, and also be of real benefit to the street children in Kampala.’