Teenagers from Shirebrook heard the moving stories of AIDS orphans and came face-to-face with the local wildlife when they headed to South Africa for 10 unforgettable days of community work.
Four students from Shirebrook Academy joined teenagers from Stubbin Wood Special School, Frederick Gent School and Tibshelf Community School for the life-changing trip, which took place last month.
The students - Kelsey Hind, 14 and Isaac Fisher, Karma Edmunds and Ross Collier, who are all 15 - had raised a total of £10,500 in order to take part in the trip, which saw them fly to Durban and then spend five nights sleeping under the canvas at Tugela River Camp, in Kwazulu-Natal province.
There, they gave staff First Aid training at the Gannahoek Combined School and the Ikhaya Lethu Colenso Orphanage, where they also planted fruit trees and also took part in a wildlife research expedition where they spent hours out in the bush observing the behaviour of giraffes and collating data.
For the second half of the trip, they travelled to the St Lucia game reserve in the east of the country, close to the border with Swaziland, where they worked with the field guides of South Africa to track, observe and learn about wildlife such as hippos, buffalo, lions, rhinos and leopards.
The trip was organised as part of the I-Venture project, which is a true partnership effort between The Bolsover Partnership, Bolsover District Council, DEBP Raising Aspirations Project, Africa Wild Trails, Woodhead Group and the schools themselves, and consists of a 15-month-long programme of work designed to offer opportunities for learning and personal growth for all participants.
Tiffany Musgrove, a maths teacher from Shirebrook Academy who accompanied the students on the trip, said it exceeded everyone’s expectations.
She said: “Not only did everyone on the trip work together and form life-long friendships, they learned to overcome a series of challenges and develop their resilience.
“Everyone had worked really hard to raise the money and demonstrate the required commitment to go on the trip and it was worth all that effort, because every day they learned something new about themselves, about South Africa and reflected on what they are all capable of.”
Karma Edmuds added: “I loved every single moment of the trip.
"I learned a lot about the giraffes and their behaviour and feeding habits during the trip and I got a lot out of working at the orphanage and at the school.
“I’ve made a lot of new friends and the trip has helped me to feel more confident about myself and my future and about making the most of opportunities.”