Sri Lanka (Turtle Sanctuary) 2018
On the 29th January 2018 15 of our students embarked on a trip of a lifetime travelling thousands of miles across time zones all to take part in local community projects in part of the world hit by the tsunami. After two flights and a 24 hour journey we arrived in a small town called Ambalangoda.
The students from Years 10 and 12 set about four projects that ‘gave back’. All students spent every morning renovating a local temple which involved painting its entire outside and many locals came to thank us by providing authentic homemade food gifts which were served daily by the monks. This was such a humbling sight – especially as the local salary per month was only £15 for most. Our students worked side by side the Buddhist monks gaining a true insight into the philosophy of Buddhism.
The second project saw students help clean and look after endangered sea turtles. The students even had the opportunity to release the turtles. The reality of plastic waste in our oceans really hit home during this project as we witnessed a turtle aged 125 years, who can no longer submerge himself due to plastic he has swallowed from the ocean, that sadly now keeps him afloat.
The third project involved working with rescued domestic elephants. We all had the opportunity to wash and scrub these majestic animals and feed them after. Our final project was teaching English to children who recognise the importance of English and their future life chances. Our students planned and delivered lessons in a front room of a local lady who tries to support the poorer children in her local community. I was impressed by their ability to think on their feet and watch as their resilience and confidence built throughout this project.
After the projects, we had the opportunity to discover Sri Lanka. From a safari in Yala national park, trekking Mini Adams peak in Ella to watch the sunrise over the mountains, tea plantations and the local economy driven by tea, traditional dance, an evening in discussion with a monk, walking the UNESCO Dutch fort and time at the Elephant orphanage – not to mention exploring Kandi.
Through all of the exciting projects and experiences we were part of, our emotions were battered by a visit to the Tsunami Museum in Galle. On arrival we walked to a ruined home, where we met the lady who owns the museum. The museum is actually the ruins of her home, destroyed by the wave. The exposed footings and now makeshift walls display unseen images and witness accounts that found us fighting back the tears. Beautifully written accounts of parents who could not hold their children against the will of the wave, messages of hope that loved ones still might be found 14 years on, images of destruction that we could never imagine or comprehend. The unmarked graves of hundreds of people, many of whom were children, who never found their way back to their families. The second wave took 60 000 Sri Lankan lives and we all were humbled to see the strength and humility of the lady who through her story has since raised over £350 000 for local health charities. I was immensely proud of the compassion our students displayed.
Our journey certainly exposed us to how we all can spend a few days of our lives giving back and I’m proud to be part of a community where our students and our future leaders want to make a real difference to some of the poorest communities in our world.
– Peru 2018
National Citizen Service (NCS) Year 12 Induction 2019
Employers and Universities are looking for more than just final grades from our school leavers; they want to see an applicant who has also developed the “soft” skills of effective communication, problem solving, resilience, and reflection. NCS is a national strategy, which is backed by the government, and delivered by Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) within our local area. The opportunity was unique for our students, as CACT modified their existing programme in order to deliver it to a group of students, rather than individuals who sign up for the programme individually. The aim of the programme for us, was to enable our students to bond as a year group, to try new things, gain new skills and challenge themselves. Students will develop skills in a real setting, and have the chance to make a real difference to their local, our local community.
The NCS programme, saw students attend a four day residential trip, and undertake several days of planning and delivering a community service/social action plan project. For the residential trip, we took students on an outward bounds trip to Wales. They took part in challenges including caving, climbing, and hiking. Projects included revamping a tired vegetable patch at a local nursery, working with members of a retirement home, designing an advertising campaign for MIND, and raising money for the Charlton Athletic Upbeats programme.
The NCS programme is also a wonderful support tools for students. Graduates receive support when applying for jobs and also have the opportunity to become part of the CACT’s apprenticeship network.
“The social action project was a good experience, we was put into teams some of us didn’t know each other very well this allowed us to get to know each other and to be more confident when meeting new people. After the experience I felt proud of myself and my team for helping out our chosen charity, the Charlton Athletic Upbeats, by raising a lot of money.” Santiago Valentine, Year 12
“We stayed at Gilwern Outdoor Education Centre in Abergavenny, Wales. Whilst we were there we took part in a range of team building exercises from canoeing to rock climbing. I especially enjoyed the caving because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to overcome my water-based fear and anxieties.” Kali-Rose Brooks, Year 12.
“I think that NCS was a great experience as it brought everyone together and required each individual to work in a team; I was an external student to Wilmington Academy, and it helped me to settle in more quickly. For our social project my group worked in an elderly home in Gravesend, and hosted games and quizzes. I think that the experienced helped me to work more effectively in a team, and helped me gain in confidence.” Ben Dobinson, Year 12.