Young environmentalists return from a trip on the wild side in South Africa

On Monday 24th February one Giving Nation representative, five students and their teacher from Stroud High School in Gloucestershire arrived home from a week long trip to the ‘Wild Coast’ in South Africa

Lucy Dunlop, Charlotte Lazell, Rebecca Hunt, Jennifer Barr and Abigail Farrell won the trip with Giving Nation’s Charity Partner, the Wilderness Foundation after making a video documenting their inspirational efforts to support the Timmy Mason Trust.

During their educational adventure, students worked alongside the Wilderness Foundation’s sister organisation, the Wilderness Leadership School to become immersed in the natural environment.

The trip saw the students embark on a three day trek through the Wild Coast where they explored coastal biodiversity and learnt about conservation and living off the land without leaving a mark behind.

Artist Qwetha, a guide at the Wilderness Leadership School, explained that the purpose of this trek was to “restore the balance and relationship between humanity and nature by providing a direct experience through taking people back to basic living.”

On returning from their trek students spent the remainder of the week living with a local Xhosa family, involving themselves in all aspects of village life from collecting the daily water supply to volunteering at the local crèche and primary school.

So what did they get out of the experience?

The basic survival skills the girls developed on this trip were easy to see; from learning to build a fire from scratch, to working together as a team as their tent collapsed in the torrential rain.  However, for me, the real impact came from a change in attitude.  It seemed that the girls’ went away with a real understanding of the importance of protecting the worlds wild spaces whilst also appreciating the sense of community in the village they stayed in.  On many occasions I heard them marvel at how friendly and positive all the local people they met were in, what appeared to them as, some very challenging circumstances and that they wanted to take that attitude back to the UK with them.

Reflecting on the trip Rebecca said “the experience has changed me, I am more grateful for what I have and realise how lucky I am.” Whilst Lucy commented that “I’ve seen how fragile the wilderness can be and how the little things we do can have a major impact.  This trip has taught me how to appreciate nature and to preserve it.”

So what next?

As a year group students are committed to continuing their fundraising for the Timmy Mason Trust and Rebecca is already busy planning the next edition of the school magazine to support this.  The trip also offered the girls the space to reflect on what other things they could do and each went away committed to giving more back to their local communities.  With Lucy wanting to research other local charities in her area to support, Charlotte and Jenny hoping to take home the sense of community they witnessed and use this to support isolated people in Gloucestershire and Abi committed to making more people aware of how communities operate in places such as the Wild Coast.  I am confident that this trip is just the beginning of these girls’ social action journey.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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