Stockton Riverside College, UK: an Unforgettable Experience with EHRA
Liz Maddison is a teacher in Stockton Riverside College, United Kingdom, which is a college of further education. In the end of last year she brought her Childcare and Early years students to experience the EHRA School Partnership Programme, and as they seemed to enjoy themselves we asked her to tell us more about their time with us.
She tells us that after choosing the EHRA project as a gift to herself for her 50th Birthday in 2013 she wanted to spread the word and the joy of the experience and realised that as a teacher she had the perfect opportunity to fulfil this idea!
How to finance a trip abroad?
We asked her about the financing of the trip as we can imagine that is one of the first challenges teachers or parents might face. This is what Liz tells us:
“Trip was financed purely through fundraising. The students were given a reasonable total to pay and my job was to raise funds along with them to support and hopefully supplement the shortfall.
This was the scariest part – I realised that flights were not going to be as low as first anticipated when checking because we had to organise a group booking and have a payment plan that required only a small deposit at the outset to hold the seats.
I couldn’t raise the costs for the students and so had an enormous job of finding enough to pay for the extra costs. In total I needed to raise £7000.00 and the students raised their own £1,500 each.
Sleepless nights and frantic fundraising initiatives ensued but our total was achieved and the trip went ahead.
The costs really are not that high compared to other projects out there and for what you get for the price is actually priceless!”
Hard work and incredible emotions
When you had all the funds collected and you arrived to Namibia, what did you actually do here?
Liz Maddison together with one of her students
"While with EHRA we immediately knew we were in the BEST hands with Rachel who organised our week 1 itinerary and Hendrick as our personal guide, leader, protector and all round fabulous man.
We camped in a clearing within a 20 minute walk from the A. Gariseb school – the students were initially speechless at the whole beauty of the place, the area and of the camp set up. We had two young trainee guides Adolf and young Mathias who were superb in ensuring the group were comfortable, safe and even managed to set up a surprise shower for the groups after a long hot day working at the school in very high temperatures."
Beci painting the wall
"Our arrival at the school was incredibly emotional. The children had gathered for a welcome assembly and they sang and danced so beautifully for us. As they went to lessons each morning we got to work clearing out the dormitory that was our set renovation task to be completed during the mornings of our 5 day long visit.
The work was hard, sanding walls, cleaning and preparing walls for new paint. Ceilings were the hardest! But throughout the course of the Monday to Thursday we made it and our creative inspiration was from a student called Beci. She painted beautiful leaves and trees and flowers to add further adornment to our purple painted walls."
The tree of kindness
"Every afternoon we were honoured with the opportunity to work in the classrooms with the children – each day a different age group divided into two classes and two classrooms.
The students organised lovely activities; face painting, arts and crafts, letter writing and singing using sign language and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experiences designed as self-esteem promoting for the children as opposed to academic work.
The final assembly was exhilarating. Music, fun and dancing – the memories our students will keep in their hearts and minds forever and still talk about their experiences on a daily basis."
Fascinating wildlife encounters and sleeping under the stars
"Week two was just as exhilarating: in that we took off into the wilderness of Namibia in off road vehicles with little but bed rolls and saw Sooooooooooooo much. Camping under the stars, cooking, sharing time, space and the warmth of people all feeling so privileged, enjoying the beauty of the landscape and the majesty of the wildlife.
The serenity of being able to observe elephants in their family groups and in small groups of Bulls, to experience all of this knowing that lives would be changed forever. Friends were made across the world. Joy was instilled in hearts to remain there always at the very thought of Namibia."
The most precious "souvenir"
"The most valuable thing we have taken from Namibia apart from the lovely memories…oh that’s a difficult one to answer. I suppose from listening to students talk about it now – they seem to value so much the fact that the children could see fun and enjoyment in what the British students may have once perceived as real hardship. The children and families there have very little but they do still find joy in friendships and take so much pride in their studies and their skills – letters have never been so beautifully presented and are treasured by the students.
For me – it was the opportunity to share such a wondrous experience with so many others. I remember at the time thinking and saying out loud “Now they just Get it!” I talked for such a long time, persuading people, relating my experience but until you experience it yourself you really don’t ‘get it’. To see their hearts open to the beauty and wonder of Namibia, the people, the land and the wildlife."
The significant lessons learned
We asked Liz what does she thinks are the most valuable things that students learned from the experience, and here’s how she replied:
“The students learned new skills and they learned about each other. They learned about themselves and found out skills that they didn’t know they had. Campfire cooking, stillness in the presence of wild animals (elephants in camp!) They now know how other people live and how important it is to promote a caring attitude towards others. They also told of how much more they have realised the importance of family and love.
I believe that the students will be kinder, more hardworking and realise that they are capable of achieving so much more than they ever believed before. Some of that was due to fundraising but the skills developed throughout the trip are life enhancing.”
Are you also thinking about doing this with your school?
“I would advise another teacher to just do it and believe in the result but start fundraising early! Tell everyone and keep telling everyone that no one ever regretted going to work with EHRA!” Liz finishes her story.
You can read more about their experiences from this article made out of their journey: https://www.stockton.ac.uk/2016/01/26/students-adventure-of-a-lifetime/