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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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African odyssey an unforgettable time for Cumbria students

TEENAGERS braved thunderstorms, wild animals and water shortages during a life-changing trip to one of Africa’s fastest-growing cities.

Pupils from Barrow Sixth Form College and Ulverston Victoria High School took part in a variety of community projects during a visit to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

It is the ninth year that Jeanette Halsey, head of chemistry at UVHS, and Malcolm Halsey, head of geography and geology at Barrow Sixth Form College, have organised the trip.

During their stay, the team of youngsters helped build a shelter and paint murals for the 1,000 pupils at Lemlem Junior and Secondary School.

The group then took a tour of Yekatit 12 Hospital in the city where they presented staff with a donation of £1,200.

They also visited the Sela Enat Orphanage where they donated clothes and games and spent two afternoons playing with the children and babies.

Conditions were far from luxurious and the students often found themselves having to cope without electricity or running water.

The local climate and wildlife also took some getting used to.

The trip took place during the height of rainy season and it is not unusual to see hyenas roaming the streets of Addis Ababa at night.

Mr Halsey said they had been made to feel very welcome by the residents of the capital. He said: “We watched the World Cup final in the company of about 7,000 Ethiopians in a huge indoor events centre.

“We were also invited to eat in local family homes and to parties thrown by the local community. On the last night we watched traditional dancing performed and even joined in.”

Barrow Sixth Form student Danny Nixon said: “My perception of Ethiopia has been completely changed since visiting Addis Ababa.

“From working in the orphanage to our main construction project at Lemlem School there has been an immense sense of community spirit in welcoming us into their community.

“It has been very rewarding to work for the benefit of the school and I hope to one day return to Ethiopia.”

Fellow student Amelia Buckley said: “I have had the best time of my life. It was an eye-opening experience that taught me to appreciate even the little things in life.

“I really didn’t want to go home, the people of Ethiopia were so generous and giving.”

UVHS student Matthew Belsey said: “Immersing myself in a completely different culture was definitely an experience.

“The frequent electricity and water shortages really made us all appreciate what we have.

“I feel I have gained so much from this experience and grown as a person.”

Mr Halsey said: “The students were amazing. Conditions were very difficult and they adapted to it very quickly. They got on with each other so well and the teamwork and co-operation were amazing.

“We had a heartwarming response from the local community which made the effort really worthwhile.”

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