Two teenagers from Carnew are preparing themselves for the trip of a lifetime, as they make plans to set off on a schools visit to far off Malawi next week.

Anne-Marie Doyle and Krystian Jacóbczak, both aged 18, 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 Coláiste Bhríde Carnew school students were in Dublin last week for a meeting of fellow travellers, who received information and discussed the itinerary for their upcoming trip.

When asked how they were feeling ahead of their upcoming trip, they both replied cheerfully “very excited!”.

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 Offaly, Kildare, Cork 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 During their trip they will visit a Unesco World Heritage site at Lake Malawi National Park, and will be hosted by the Irish Ambassador at a reception at her residency.

For the students, the trip is the opportunity of a lifetime to have a first-hand experience of the living conditions and lives of young people in a country known as ‘the warm heart of Africa.’

“It’s always better to experience from yourself than reading from a book or a newspaper,” explains Krystian. “And then you know what actually needs to be done,” adds Anne-Marie.

From a learning perspective, Krystian says “I want to back-up the facts I already know about Africa.”

For teacher Aidan Douglas, who will also travel, this trip is the occasion for his students to “get appreciation of the work that is done by charities and to actually see what the funds they raised go towards. It’s also a way to give them an appreciation that some things happening here are pretty insignificant compared to other things that can happen abroad.”

Aidan Douglas, 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 Anne-Marie and Krystian: “The students are usually profoundly affected by their trip abroad. They become more active citizens. In the previous years, one of my students decided to sponsor a charity when he returned to Ireland.”

What a special opportunity—we wish them well and assure them of our support.
Linda Dunne