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Blessed Trinity students set for South Africa

AFRICA-BOUND: Blessed Trinity College Year 14 students who are flying off to South Africa to work on a number of different projects in and around the Durban area AFRICA-BOUND: Blessed Trinity College Year 14 students who are flying off to South Africa to work on a number of different projects in and around the Durban area
By Conor McParland

NINE Year 14 students from Blessed Trinity College are preparing for the trip of a lifetime to South Africa.
The young people have teamed up with Paddy Doyle from New Lodge Youth Centre and the Connections Youth Project.
They will travel to South Africa on October 28 to spend 16 days working on a number of different projects in Durban and the surrounding towns and villages before returning home on November 12.
This is the first time the project has been run with a school and Bernadette Little, Vice-Principal of Blessed Trinity College Antrim Road site, is delighted with the upcoming opportunity for the students.
“We are happy and privileged to have been asked to come on board the project,” she explained.
“We ran an internal application process open to all students and there was a lot of interest,” she said. “They then went for an interview to sell their qualities and skills before the final nine were chosen. There has been a lot of work done already with a lot of preparation and education about culture in South Africa.
“It is once in a lifetime opportunity and will give the students more of a clear direction of what they want to do in life when they come back.”
Student Ryan McCarthy explained more about what the trip will entail.
“We had to do a lot of fundraising which involved bag packing and setting up pages on Facebook to raise the £15,000 required for cover our travel and donate towards different projects out there,” he said. “The first seven days we will spend in homeless shelters before moving to work in villages and towns outside Durban. We will be fully integrated in the community and there will be no luxuries.
“We will live with local people and their families and help build houses and other things to help the community and work on different projects.
“It will be very much a hands-on experience. It is not a holiday for us. We have also been learning the Zulu culture which is everything from song, language, games and dance, which we will use to communicate with the children who don’t speak much English. We want to respect their culture and integrate ourselves into theirs.”
Another student, Holly O’Neill, believes she will take a lot from the experience.
“I think the trip will teach us a lot about how we take for granted how we live back at home,” she said. “These people in South Africa are poor. We will feel lucky to live here. People complain about all the bad stuff in the news here but it is nothing compared to over there. People have nothing compared to us. The whole experience so far has given us all more confidence. We were all shy and didn’t talk much to each other but now we are all talking more and working together as a team.
“The travel is daunting – around 18 hours – but we are all looking forward to it and want to make the most out of it. I remember the feeling when I got picked for this life changing experience, I was speechless.
“The amount of dedication that has to be put in is crazy, but working as a team I know we can get through it.
“Something that has really been outstanding for me has definitely been the Monday night groups that I look forward to for a good laugh and good craic.
“I’m just so thankful to have been chosen for this life changing experience.”
Paddy Doyle from Connections Youth Project added: “I wanted to change the project a bit and develop young leaders within a school environment.
“The young people have worked really hard in their preparation so far and I know we are going to have a successful trip. I can’t wait for it. It is a new programme for me as well but it will create a lot of memories and experiences for the young people.”
You can keep up to date with the young people’s journey in South Africa on the Connections Youth Project Facebook page.

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