THREE Clonakilty students – Mary Cullinane, Maebh Mc Carthy and Anna Mc Carthy, all 16, will head to southern Africa at the end of October, on a week-long visit to poor rural communities in Malawi.
They will travel as a part of an annual school trip organised by Irish development organisation Gorta-Self Help Africa.
The Clonakilty Community College students were in Dublin last week for a meeting of fellow travellers, who received information and discussed the itinerary for their upcoming trip.
While admitting they were excited about the forthcoming trip, they girls also confessed that they were a bit nervous about how they will react to the conditions the local communities live in.
Gorta-Self Help Africa’s yearly trip is open to students from schools who take part in the charity’s Development Education programme. Trip participants from each school are selected on the basis of a one-page essay and an interview. Students then lead a fundraising campaign in their school to support the trip’s cost.
This year, nine students and their teachers from Cork, Kildare, Offaly and Wicklow will fly from Dublin to Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city. The group will visit two schools and two rural communities participating in an agricultural development project implemented by Gorta-Self Help Africa.
For the students, this trip is the opportunity of a lifetime to have a first-hand experience of the education and living conditions and lives of young people in a country known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’.
‘We always hear about the situation in developing countries from an adult’s perspective. It will be interesting to tell people our age, from our own point of view, about our experiences there,’ explained Maebh. ‘I think it will give us a better perspective about our own lives. Our worries and stresses are so little compared to others in the world,’ added Mary.
For teacher Ciarán Mulcahy, who will also travel, this trip is the occasion for his students to see a variety of cultures and to interact with people. ‘It’s also a good way of making them realise how lucky we are in Ireland,’ he said.
Ciarán, who has taken part in previous study visits, knows a trip to rural Africa can turn out to be a life-changing experience for students like Mary, Meabh and Anna.