Alex Gregory, a year 11 Student from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School reflects on valuable lesson

First published 27th April 2012

Reflection by Alex Gregory, Year 11, who, along with Georgia Cooke, visited Ikoba February 2012

On our last day at Ikoba School in Uganda, Faith, the Head teacher, asked Georgia and me what we had learnt, or gained, you might say, from our experience over there. She understood that pupils from her school gained resources and sometimes financial support, say, to be able to pay for school meals, but she wanted to know what we and pupils in our school had gained from the partnership.

It didnt take me long to think of an answer to this, because the whole experience had been absolutely fantastic and I knew exactly what I had gained. At the time, I wasnt entirely sure if I had expressed myself clearly enough on the topic, but now I think I know how to put what I meant into words. Sure, we didnt gain financial support and so forth from them, but what I personally gained from the experience was infinitely more valuable than that.

I got the chance to care. I got the chance to go inside the photo - to actually feel what it was like to be a person there, to share what they shared and do the things they did. Maybe thats a little confusing to you, I dont know, but let me explain. Here in England, we are so bombarded by charity appeals and by images of what Africa is supposed to be like, on the TV, the radio, and in the newspaper that we, to put it simply, become immune to it. We dont actually see the people any more they become just another part of the scenery and you begin to forget that theyre real, that theyre just like us. Sometimes you even forget to care, as removed and distant as you appear to be from their lives.

I got the chance to see the people in that photo spring to life and become living, breathing beings who think and feel and who are exactly like us. I made friends with the girls there, who talked about exactly the same things that me and my friends did, and any other teenager would; we laughed together and it was amazing to chat with someone and feel so at home with them, when the places where you both were from were continents apart.

I also gained a lot of other things such as insight into the struggles many of them went through every day, and the intense feeling of gratefulness that overwhelmed me when I realised how blessed I was to have all of the things that I did. It made me wonder at how selfish we can be, here in the U.K., when we want a new phone every year or so and are upset when we dont get one. Leading on from that, I learnt it was possible to be happy without all of those material things. The girls at the school, despite their long hours and the tough conditions still shared those things that really mattered; friendship and love and happiness and compassion. It made me a stronger Christian too, seeing how despite what they had been dealt in life, they still were so passionate and so willing to share their love of God .

The main thing that I gained from the trip, as I was saying, however, was that it opened my eyes, and opened my heart, too. I wasnt immune anymore. I cared.

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