Spiders, scorpions and elephants; students learn plenty from 'amazing' African volunteering trip

A GROUP of students from Stockton Riverside College have returned from Africa after working with schoolchildren in Namibia and on an elephant conservation project.

The students lent their experience to the Abraham Gariseb Primary School, where they painted dormitories and delivered English classes to children.

The trip was organised with Elephant Human Relations Aid (EHRA) which runs an elephant conservation project aiming to help villagers live in harmony with the region’s wild elephants.

Jackie Robbins, the college’s course leader for early years, said the students experienced some eye-opening moments, including when a herd of elephants passed right through their camp.

She added: “It was an amazing experience to see the Childcare and Early Years students being able to put the skills that they have learnt in the classroom into practice, particularly overcoming the language barrier.”

The students spent the first week sleeping in a camp, followed by three nights under the stars as they joined EHRA’s elephant patrol - and the excursion proved a real test of their grit and determination.

They not only had to contend with wild elephants roaming through their camp, their slumber was also frequently disturbed by spiders and scorpions.

Despite these challenges, the trip was a positive experience for the group and childcare student, Amy Oliver, said: “It was a fantastic experience and worth all the stress of raising the funds to get there.

“It is nothing like you think it will be.

“I expected the children to be shy and not want to interact with us but they were so interested in everything we did and wanted to know who we were,” added the 17-year-old from Stockton.