A Trip to the Orphanage

In the second week of their South African Adventure, our Gryphons Abroad team paid a visit to the Zulufadder Orphanage. Here they tell us all about it.

Rachel Weaver

Spending the past 2 days at the Zulufadder Ophanage has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life, seeing children who have next to nothing, smile as if they have the world is a truly amazing sight. Initially the children were timid and curious as to what a bunch of strangers were doing visiting the orphanage but within a few minutes of us being there I’ve never experienced a group of children wanting as much love and attention as these. Both days were full of playing games, cuddles and laughter and was a real eye opener as to how something as small as a colouring book or ball can make so many children so happy! Before arriving at the orphanage Andy had told us about Poppy, the lady who runs the orphanage, and how amazing she is but nothing could compare to actually meeting her!

Poppy is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met, her ability to control 65 children aged 2-6 was admirable and you could see that every child saw her as a role model. I have honestly never met someone as happy and enthusiastic as Poppy and I really aim to be as passionate as her from now on! These 2 days were unforgettable and are moments I will cherish for the rest of my life!

Jessica Foggarty

Our visits to the orphanage were nothing like I ever could have imagined.  I was expecting a really challenging and upsetting environment but in reality it was much different.  Although the children come from very difficult backgrounds it is far from obvious.  Over the two days we spent at the Zulufadder orphanage I was able to get to know the most amazing group of children.  The love, laughter and cuddles that these children were able to give and receive was nothing like I have ever experienced before and it really hit me that happiness is not something we get through material items and having the money to be able to do great things but instead from the people we surround ourselves with.  Poppy – the lady who runs the Zulufadder orphanage is honestly the most incredible woman I have ever met and will ever meet.  The work she puts in to ensure the children eat, learn and love just like any other children is utterly inspiring.  I really hope that I can come back in the future and help her to continue the work she does there.  There is a lot that I have taken from this trip but my visits to the orphanage provided me with an experience that has hit me hard, I will never ever forget it and I have been inspired to keep helping people in the future.


Shona Mcleaod

The orphanage had the most profound impact on me as a person. Working with children is foreign to me and was a huge learning curve. It really showed me how simple things can make people happy and have a positive impact on someone’s life. Seeing the children smiling and offering the ‘older’ role model position gave the children someone to cuddle and become friends with. Reading, colouring and playing with the children and seeing how happy this made them is something I will never forget. It really showed me how important the little things in life are. Saying goodbye to Poppy was one of the saddest parts of the trip. She is by far the most amazing woman I have ever met. Her happiness radiates into those around her and I couldn’t think of anyone better to run such a brilliant centre. I will never forget this experience and I am grateful to have the opportunity to take part.

Eamonn Laird

As a group I think we were all in agreement that the visit to the orphanage would be the most significant experience of the trip and provide insight into a situation far removed from our own family setups. Arriving at the orphanage we were given the most heartfelt and enthusiastic welcome from Poppy who ran the orphanage, her welcome was a perfect representation of the atmosphere and feeling we would find running through the orphanage.

Regardless of the situation the children may be in, there was no feeling of sadness at the orphanage, simply children enjoying being children. The joy the children took from what we would consider the simplest items, a ball, a colouring book, a skipping rope, was over whelming and provides a great example to us all that we should not lose that enthusiasm for even the wee things.


Rosie Victoria Kerr

It’s so incredible meeting a group of children who are so happy, joyful and smiley, despite having all lived through deprivation of some sort, whether it be losing one or both parents, or a background of poverty. Both days when we initially arrived at the orphanage, the children were shy and reserved, after 20 minutes they were jumping all over us, playing games and just enjoying spending time with us. There was a lot of laughter over the two mornings we spent at the orphanage and it was great to feel that even for a few hours the children felt enveloped in love and attention. I think my favourite moment of the whole trip was seeing Poppy, the incredible lady who runs the orphanage, get so immensely excited about seeing donations of kit, clothes and books. This moment will stay with me for a lifetime.

Sian Jones

Our last couple of days in South Africa was spent at the Zulufadder Orphanage in Eshowe, and it was an incredibly enriching experience. The children were some of the happiest and most excited children I’ve ever met; they jumped into our arms and there wasn’t a moment where we weren’t holding a child or laughing and having a good time. The real star of the show was Poppy, the lady who has run Zulufadder since it started and a lady that is incredibly inspiring and so grateful for all the things we were able to donate. It was sad leaving the orphanage but it was great to see that all the kit was going to such a fantastic cause, as well as the children looking very cute in their tiny kits. I had one of the best days I’ve had here in south Africa, and it was very emotionally draining but I would happily do it all over just to see their big smiles again.

Learning To Ride Bikes

The Gryphons Abroad team tell us about the second day of teaching the children how to both ride and maintain a bike. 

GA bike image

Charli Brunning
Today saw the second day of bicycle training at Mnyakanya High School. The students were super keen to get started, and were waiting patiently for us in the classroom as we arrived. We set up swiftly and the team delivered some warm up games including the much loved, age-irrelevant domes and dishes. We then split into groups determined on the students’ ability to ride and started our session. It’s amazing how quickly 2 hours passes when you see the ever increasing standards of cycling and abilities of the students; from those who could not ride a bike yesterday being able to cycle over 10 meters today. Even individuals that could ride were able to head down to the road to learn some vital new skills including extremely important road cycling signals to other drivers and intricate bike handling manoeuvres to utilise whilst riding on the tough terrain of Nkandla.
Bike maintenance is coming on a treat, with the students all enjoying learning new skills including puncture repair, wheel change and basic brake maintenance which will be imperative for them to be able to maintain their bicycles once we are back in the UK.

It’s incredible to watch these students learning skills that we take for granted, and to see them already showing off their newly gained talents to their friends at break times.

Ellie McGrath

One of the highlights of this trip has been being able to witness the development of the children we have been working with. Yesterday was the first day at Mnyakanya high school and we ended the day by getting all the kids onto a bike, some were already able to cycle, others picked it up really quickly yet there were some kids that struggled. Today we began the day by getting all the kids straight onto the bikes, it was amazing to see the progress that was made in such a small amount of time and the pure enjoyment on the kids faces.GA helping ride a bike
I am having the most amazing time out here and could not ask to be with a better group of people. The group works so well together and each and every one of us have gained so many skills and really improved our leadership over the course of our time here. The whole experience is going way too quickly, and I cannot believe we will be home in a week.

Ellie McKeating
GA riding a bikeeThe second day at Mnyakanya was brilliant, the children were split into groups of ability and I was working with the beginners group. The children were so determined to learn to ride a bike and this enthusiasm was carried though to our team. The whole day was rewarding for the children but more so, for us as a team. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the children at this school and this has been a total opposite to the week before.

Jess Fogarty
The children here really are amazing, they are so enthusiastic and determined in everything they do, which for me has been somewhat inspiring. I have learnt so much already on this trip but the drive that the children have, particularly the students in Mnyankanya (many of whom have very little), has really made me contemplate my own way of thinking. We came here to help teach the children of Eshowe and Mnyankanya but in reality we are learning so much from them too. Day two at Mnyankanya was just as special as every other day has been. We split the students into groups of beginners, intermediate level cyclists and advanced. It is amazing to be able to teach them a skill that many of us have had since we were very young and to see them constantly progressing in that skill is even better! I am so ready to get back out there today and to have some very confident cyclists by the end of it!GA riding a bike

Find out more about the project and apply to be part of the team for next year on the Gryphons Abroad Webpage.

Cycling To Success

Through your donations of bikes, equipment and money our Gryphons Abroad team have been able to set up a bike hub in South Africa. This will allow children who cannot attend school as they live too far away the chance to own a bike which will give them a way to travel to and from school safely.

Rosie Victoria Kerr
Our first day in Myankanya High School was a very different experience to the days spent in Gratton School. The school was in a beautiful setting with 360 degree views of the Nkandla region but was much less developed than Gratton and the students spoke less English. This provided us with added challenge which was interesting and allowed us to see a different side to South African education. We were working with the children initiating a cycling programme.

Sponsorship and fundraising has allowed us to provide the school with 14 bikes to set up a bike hub. Today we worked on bike maintenance and initial riding skills, all in all a good and productive day!

Shona Macleod

This day began in the rural area of Nkandla with views quite different from Gratton School. The pitch we used to teach our cycling programme were sandy and half covered by cows, nevertheless we had such a great time. The excitement of the children to get going and their determined attitude made the day one of the most exciting and challenging. Their English skills were much less developed than Gratton meaning demonstrations were our main form of teaching, which is tough to do without a clear explanation. GA Bikes 2Nonetheless, the children got stuck in and by the end of the day we had children scattered all around the field; some having full control of the bike whilst others had managed to grasp balancing whilst on the bike. Overall a really fun day that developed our teaching skills as well as communication and interaction skills due to some of the difficulties we faced.


Sian Jones
GA bike 3It’s not every day that you’re lucky enough to take in breathtaking views and teach those who aren’t as fortunate as ourselves to ride bikes. The children of Myankanya High School put our leadership skills to the test, with limited English and an uncertainty around their skill level, we were unsure how well they would do.
Some were naturals and some had no idea, we came together as a team and ended the day with lots of laughs and the children had a great time. It was amazing to see how determined and interested the children were, and how they would listen to each word we said with huge enthusiasm. The day overall was great and a huge contrast to our first week, but equally just as good.


Find out more about the project and apply to be part of the team for next year on the Gryphons Abroad Webpage.

The Scottish National Anthem?!

South African School students in a group

The Gryphons Abroad team reflect on their time at Gratton school and students sing the Scottish National Anthem, with ALL the words…

Jade Lord

So today was our final day at Gratton with all the children. I had my curriculum lesson to deliver in the afternoon which I was feeling quite apprehensive about. The first two activities which consisted of tag rugby and leadership were fantastic; although my team were slightly reluctant to begin with, they soon began to get involved and they especially took a shine to the leadership task!GA Tag

It was evident the three days that we had been at the school had really had a positive impact on all the children. My highlight of the day was actually my lesson! It was great to see that all the children really wanted to learn about the body and in particular the muscles and bones, they asked so many questions which made me feel like I had kind of inspired them in a way. Overall, it was an emotional day for me especially towards the end.

Trying to reflect upon the day proved a challenge as I couldn’t put into words how fantastic our time with the children had been.

It was awesome to see all the children so enthusiastic and although they were sad to see us go, the impact we had was something I will take home with me and remember as a high point of my time in South Africa.

The last day at Gratton school was full of ups and downs. At first I was doubtful about how the rugby would go down with kids who had never played before, however once we got going the untainted enthusiasm of the kids prevailed. The activities were fantastic and a particular highlight for me was when we set the kids the task of creating and leading their own game. While they presented their games we really saw how the leadership sections of the week had taken effect. The kids were confident, aware, imaginative and they included all aspects of being a good leader.GA Kids Outside A low point in the day for me was saying goodbye as we have created such special bonds with all the kids. Even though it came to an end the whole three days have definitely had a huge positive effect on us and the kids.

Ellie McKeating

The final day at School. Today I led a curriculum lesson on Chemistry and the kids did not disappoint! Each group had to present a subject to the rest of the class, this required team work, confidence and leadership. As it was the final day, expectations were high and the kids were absolutely brilliant. They used their many skills, talents and charisma and all presented their topics exceedingly well. The rest of the day was brilliant, at the end of the day we had a presentation and each child received a Gryphons Abroad certificate and Sports Leadership award certified by Sports Leader UK. GA CertificatesWe had a whole School photo and ended with some singing from the children, including the Scottish National Anthem (the whole song, every single word) much to Eamonn’s pleasure! We received hugs, thanks and goodbyes from the children and this day is something I will never forget.

Andy Lockwood – Project Leader

It’s hard to put the last three days into words. Over the last eight months, I have had an image in my mind of how the project will look and how the team will perform. It is fair to say that not only have they met those expectations but far exceeded them.

I have seen them grow and develop through the interaction with the children we have worked with and that has been brilliant to see. As well as that, the impact that they have had on the children they have worked with is huge. Whether it be through coaching, teaching or leading the growth and personal development of our South African learners is been pretty impressive. The have thoroughly enjoyed their experience and it is definitely something that will live long in the memory of everyone.

Bring on the bikes!

Gryphons Abroad – day 2

Day 2 in the schools is now complete in the Gryphons Abroad camp and we’ve had our latest update from the team about how it went

Rachel Weaver

On the second day we worked at Gratton School again. During the first session we did leadership and worked mainly on communication, we led games such as blindfolded obstacle courses to encourage the importance of communication. Our second session was our curriculum lesson, Sian led this lesson and it was about Business. We did a dragon den styled lesson where the children invented “the best gift ever” for a family member or friend; they designed things such as a safe house for their family or a box of things they enjoy. Our final session was on netball; most of the girls had previously played before and so were really excited! We did a few drills and games that prepared the school for the netball tournament we led after lunch. During the tournament our school got split into 4 teams, my team did really well just missing out on the finals! Overall I really enjoyed today, the children always had a smile on their faces and even after 2 days of working with them I could see how much they had  developed in confidence and leadership.



Eamonn Laird

Starting the second day at Gratton the group were all feeling confident and enthused after their successful first day. Our group worked on netball first, a sport which a lot more of the children seemed to have played before and picked up the drills very quickly. The second session of the day we worked on leadership, a highlight was having one of the children stand up and lead part of the session, running a game they had learnt on the first day. The personal highlight of the day, and although we have several days left, it will probably be the highlight of the trip, was having a whole class room of students sing the “Flower of Scotland”. Sofia was delivering an art class and asked the class to draw a symbol which represents them. I myself drew a Scottish flag. I showed it to the class and asked them to guess what it was, they were able to answer very quickly as they had recently had a Scottish teacher at their school. They had been taught the Scottish national anthem for the teacher leaving so were more than happy to break into song which I of course joined in with.

“I always knew I would have some special moments in South Africa but never thought I would have one that special and that personal.”



Sian Jones

Another day at The Gratton School brought huge smiles and even more fun for us and the children! The three sessions went superbly well and the children loved all the things we taught them. The second lesson of the day tested my knowledge and put my teaching abilities to the test as I ran a “Dragon Dens” style exercise. It was a real pleasure to see the children, who originally did not want to present to the class, thrive and receive the highest points. It highlighted how the leadership section of our teaching was paying off and how we’ve helped them over the past few days. A personal highlight for me was seeing those students, who during the sports session were unmotivated and uninterested, wanting to play more and more netball during the sports competition at the end. It’s been a fantastic experience at Gratton, and the final day is looking to be even better!


First day at school

After settling in, the Gryphon’s Abroad team have enjoyed their first day of school.  

Read about how they got on with our student blogs below and keep an eye out tomorrow for the next update…

Rosie Kerr

The first day in South Africa did not disappoint! No amount of stories or pictures could have prepared us for how amazing the children are. After being shown round Gratton School by the head teacher and feeling pretty emotional after seeing the non-profit hostel run by the school, we were thrown straight into teaching the children. They were so excited to hear what we had to say! Snapchat face swap went down an absolute treat too! Can’t wait for more of the same tomorrow!


Ellie McGrath

What an amazing first day! Once we arrived at the school we were taken on a little tour around by the Principle. The one thing that really sticks in my mind and what definitely pulled on our heartstrings was being shown the wall of motivational quotes in the dining hall. The kids were awesome, so full of energy and always happy. I have never seen smiles like it when the football was brought out.

The first day has been brill and I cannot wait for the rest of this trip!!


Jess Fogarty

What a day!  From meeting the most amazing children, who literally go full force into everything they do, to having the opportunity to teach them and to play with them (whilst also maybe getting a little too competitive during a hockey tournament) to chilling out at the hotel, playing cards with the group (who are already some of my best friends) and getting excited about tomorrow by planning out the day in full, p.s. tomorrow is netball, it’s time to get excited!  I honestly don’t think there are enough words or pictures to demonstrate how fantastic this place is and how much of an impact the children here have already had on us all… I can’t wait for tomorrow!


Charli Brunning

Once again, Africa has not failed to disappoint, and it’s only day one!

Having been shown around the school grounds, the school crop fields and the boarding hostel, we were ready to get started with coaching and leadership lessons.

We were told, last night that the children were super excited to meet us, and we were certainly not disappointed. We were greeted by the most enthusiastic children who were keen to ask questions of us and our culture, especially getting us to say and repeat many words that they thought sounded funny in our accents! It was incredible that they were not afraid to get stuck right in with our hockey tournament, especially for those who had never picked up a hockey stick until today.

An incredible day, filled with a lot of love, learning and laughter. Here’s to the next 2 weeks!


Find out more about the project and apply to be part of the team for next year on the Gryphons Abroad Webpage

And They’re Off!

the gryphons abroad team

AndyAfter a year of planning the Gryphons Abroad team have made it to South Africa!

Project lead Andy Lockwood (right) sums up his excitement and the plan for their days in Eshowe…


We are back and so is the blog, this will be the only one I write… promise!

So after 10 months, countless fundraising events and a lot of hard work we are on our way. The first international sport programme delivered by Leeds Sport.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of our nine strong team of Gryphon Abroad students. They have worked so hard to raise awareness and funds for the programme and now is the time they get to pull everything together.

From my experience last year, I know that the team are in for a once in a lifetime experience.

The plan is to deliver a mix of sport, leadership and education in local primary schools in the first week and in the second week we are delivering a brand new learn to cycle programme at Mnyakanya High School.

The programme is packed and I know the benefit to both our students and more importantly our South African friends will be huge!

I am writing this on the bus from Durban Airport to our accommodation in Eshowe. The atmosphere on the bus is electric. The team can now see what we have worked so hard for and I can’t wait!

The travel has been fine, a bit of a mission organising the bags at Manchester but we have done well! Just a bit tired.

With that, we are going to get some food, have a quick team meeting and get to bed.

The real work starts tomorrow.


Find out more about the project and apply to be part of the team for next year on the Gryphons Abroad Webpage.

Bikes on their way to South Africa!

two girls loading bikes onto a truck

Six bikes are now making their way to South Africa for FREE thanks to Cardinal Maritime shipping company. These bikes have been donated by staff and students at the University and will be given to children in one of the most deprived areas of South Africa through the Gryphons Abroad Programme. Some children live up to 2 hours away from school and the aim of this project is to give them access to education by reducing the time it takes to travel to school.

The students will have bike training which will teach them how to maintain their bikes ensuring once the Gryphons Abroad team has left the bikes will continue to be used. The £1200 to set up this training and purchase the equipment needed has been donated by the University of Leeds Commercial Services Sustainability Steering Group as well as £800 which will be used for educational and sporting resources at the local Orphanage.

127 Miles, 3 Days

andy and james standing at the canal

Andrew Lockwood (Professional Development Manager at The University of Leeds) embarked on an epic fundraising challenge this year; running from Liverpool to Leeds in just 3 days. Yes you read that correct he ran 127 MILES in just 3 days! This mammoth effort was in aid of two charities close to his heart, The Bambisinani Partnership linked to our Gryphons Abroad programme and Sheffield Hospital Charity.
Andy has completed numerous marathons and realised that he would need to push himself to encourage friends and family to part with their cash. After finally deciding to take on the challenge Andy realised it was something either very impressive or totally irrational from the reactions he got from family and friends.

” A few years ago I cycled Liverpool to Leeds and it got me thinking could I run it? To be honest, I had no idea what I had let myself in for”

half way sign on the canal

It was a very tough few days but keeping him company was Andy’s equally ‘adventurous’ friend James who joined him for the whole challenge. Many friends, family and colleagues also joined the pair for part of the second and third day and a 20 strong crowd ran with them to the finish in Leeds city centre and helping them to celebrate their amazing achievement.

” The last day was hell but the thought of getting to the finish kept me going, as we arrived at granary wharf to friends and family you couldn’t get the smile off my face. To achieve something as huge as that and to know you’re making a real difference to peoples lives at home and abroad will live with me forever”

Andy wrote a blog about the whole experience and has raised  a fantastic £1500 so far for these great charities. If you have a spare few pounds then you can still donate online.

To get involved in the fantastic Gryphons Abroad project and be part of the team going next year check out the website.

Gryphon’s Big Bike Ride

group of people riding bikes in the sunshine

Get on your bike for a beautiful return ride to Ilkley with a stop off for coffee and cake, all in aid of the Gryphons Abroad programme.

The  Gryphons Abroad programme aims to deliver a life changing programme for students in Leeds and South Africa.

Bike Ride Details

Date: Saturday 12th March
Time: 9am Registration
Distance: 35 miles
Location: Setting off from Leeds University Union
Cost: £10 + FREE t-shirt.
50% of the cost will be donated directly to the Gryphons Abroad Programme

Bookings are now closed for this event.

The Route

We will meander through Headingley, Bramhope and Otley before riding along the River Wharfe into Ilkley, taking in the breathtaking scenery along the way. In Ilkley we will stop for coffee and cake before getting back on our bikes and returning to Leeds for celebratory drinks in the Terrace Bar at Leeds University Union.

The route has been chosen to ensure it is not overly difficult however it is recommended that participants have confidence riding on roads and that 35 miles is within their physical ability. The ride will be led by University Ride Leaders who will be available for help and support throughout the ride.

What You Need

  • A bike (Road or Hybrid)
  • A Helmet
  • Reflective Clothing
  • Appropriate clothing and footwear for all weathers e.g. rain jacket
  • Food and Refreshments
  • Money for coffee and cake (optional)

Raising Funds

Gryphons Abroad School kids


In June 2016, the Leeds Sport team with the Bambisanani Partnership will be delivering an international sports development programme, Gryphons Abroad in South Africa.
The team will be delivering an innovative programme aimed at providing education opportunities for children in South Africa through a cycle to success programme.

The Gryphons Big Bike ride will raise awareness and much needed funds for the programme. 50% of the registration fee will go directly to the programme to purchase books, equipment and cycle provisions to ensure the programme has a lasting legacy giving children access to education.

If you have any questions please contact Andy Lockwood: a.lockwood@leeds.ac.uk