Ottery students from The King's School reflect on 'life-changing' Ethiopia trip

IT WAS a life-changing , mind-blowing 7000- mile trek which saw them moved to tears by scenes of poverty and mobbed like pop-stars by thousands of school children.

IT WAS a "life-changing", "mind-blowing" 7000- mile trek which saw them moved to tears by scenes of poverty and mobbed like pop-stars by thousands of school children.

Nine student ambassadors from Ottery St Mary's The King's School returned from an "exciting and fantastic adventure" to Ethiopia earlier this month after spending seven days "making a difference" in the country.

The group of 15 to 18 year-olds enthralled members of the Rotary Club of Otter Valley with the tale of their "humbling" trip to Africa in February where they planned, delivered and reviewed a sports festival for elementary school children after raising �900 for equipment.

Deputy headteacher Rob Gammon spoke of the trepidation he first felt before the trip and the overwhelming pride he felt after.

He said: "I was worried about going to a third world country- taking other people's children to some where I would be concerned about going myself."

"The students were outstanding ambassadors for the school and town and I am sad that the adventure is over but am hopeful that the impact of our visit will be felt in our lives and the lives of many others for a long time to come."

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The trip saw the group welcomed as guests of honour by 5000 students at the Dej Geresu Duki School in Wolisa, 120km south of capital city Addis Ababba, for the festival.

The students spoke of how they made friends, shared cultures and shed tears over scenes of poverty, but were also buoyed by their African counterparts' thirst for knowledge, determination and enthusiasm- as one put it: "The experience made us realise how lucky we are here."

One teen said he "felt like Bono" as the group were swamped by thousands of children during a visit to a local primary school.

The group experienced the Ethiopian education experience first-hand, where classes are made up of 80 to 100 pupils in each class with three to five on each desk.

Other highlights saw the teenagers enjoy an overnight stay in the Menagesha Suba National Forest where they sampled sheep, freshly slaughtered by Ethiopian lords and carted hundreds of miles to them, alongside resident a baboon who joined them after smelling the meat cooking.

They were given an insight into sub-Saharan views over religion, equality and sexual health, tasted the country's biggest export- coffee and appeared on national television.

Teacher Becky Lea summed up the experience and said: "I've never felt so proud of a group of students in my life. It was a mind blowing educational experience- to see three to five thousand children all clambering to meet us- so warm and friendly- hanging from football goalposts, climbing up trees.

"I can't stress how life changing it was and will remember it for the rest of my life."

Students made the trip as part of the Dreams + Teams project, which aims to develop global citizenship, cultural awareness and leadership through sport.