HALF a dozen Queen Elizabeth II High School students have visited the Gambia, one of Africa’s most impoverished countries.
Their visit was to see first hand, and report on, the work of Concern Universal in promoting sustainable agriculture in tourism.
The trip was a prize for the QEII winning the Most Outstanding School at the Giving Nation Social Action Awards in October. Giving Nation promotes secondary school students getting involved in charity work, campaigning, volunteering and community activities.
Throughout 2009-10, the QEII raised an impressive £27,000 for charities and good causes, the school undertaking more than 100 charity and volunteering initiatives.
Student Tom Anderson, 15, said: ‘I think we are very lucky to have won a trip to the Gambia and have been able to see the variety of challenges troubling the country. However, I think the work we have put into Giving Nation has shown us what we can do in our local community.’
The six students on the trip – including Moira Pain, Rebecca Beavis, Rachael Harrop, aged 16, Lauren Blayney, Aareez Khan and Tom Anderson, aged 15, and their teacher Lesley Sleight – were able to learn about the challenges faced by people in the Gambia, such as climate change and food shortages.
They were also able to consider how they can contribute to the global movement to fight poverty once back home.
They visited various communities and ecotourism initiatives, including a snake farm and farming co-operatives, and received a warm welcome when they visited the SMILE Garden under TARUD, a Concern Universal partner.
The farmers, all women, demonstrated the power of learning farming techniques and how access to water can help them feed their families and escape poverty.
Student Lauren Blayney said: ‘I was inspired by the motivation of the Gambian women and I would love to make a film to illustrate their courage and determination and to spread the message of teamwork.’
The partnership between Concern Universal and Giving Nation aims to enable students to see how tourism can work positively in conjunction with agriculture towards greater prosperity for Gambian communities.
Jenny Holland from Concern Universal said it was a ‘great opportunity’ for the students to witness community-led development and to engage with local young people who are working to improve their lives.
Speaking with the young people from Kajabang Village, the students discussed the importance of volunteering and charitable giving, as well as sharing experiences on migration, education and tourism.
‘This trip teaches students the importance and the positive effects of intercultural communication to develop important skills, which are indispensable in today’s interconnected world society,’ said QEII teacher Lesley Sleight.
Student Moira Pain said: ‘It is really important to establish links between nations and enhance our understanding of other cultures. We were able to raise awareness of the people in Gambia, the Isle of Man and work of Concern Universal.’
The Manx Government already supports the work of Concern Universal. The students were able to visit some of the projects funded by the island, including clean water pumps for wells.