Our University of Leeds students and staff have returned from our annual Gryphons Abroad trip! Eight students and four staff members went on the trip which was a huge success, with all volunteers thrilled by seeing the increase in the children’s skills and confidence.

Each year, University of Leeds staff and students travel to South Africa to deliver a volunteering programme in partnership with the Bambisanani Partnership Charity. We work with hundreds of South African students with the aim of raising aspirations through leadership and activity. It is a student led project and once in a lifetime adventure, where the students gain a range of skills and experiences which set them apart for life after University.

South African Student fixing bikeThe first week of the trip was spent at Mnyakanya High School in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal teaching the South African students to ride and also maintain bikes. This skill is often life changing for the students, as many live as far as two hours away from the school which creates a barrier to getting their education. This year, as a result of the project;

  • 35 children learnt to ride bikes with ten making it out onto the open road.
  • Six children were trained as bike mechanics.
  • 20 refurbished bikes were shipped to the school for continued use by the students.

In the second week of the trip, our staff and students worked with four local primary schools based in the Eshowe district, delivering a sports and leadership programme. This involved the students delivering classroom lessons including anatomy and history of art, teaching and playing a variety of sports and organising leadership activities. As a result of the programme;

  • 12 classroom sessions, 12 leadership sessions and 12 sports sessions were delivered at Gratton School.
  • 175 new young leaders were certified from Gratton, Little Flower, John Wesley and Holy Childhood schools.
  • 300+ football shirts were distributed to six schools and Zulufadder day care centre. 214 shirts were collected by Murphy Grisedale-Stairs

Alan Stuart, Principal of the John Wesley School, made the following comments about the impact of the programme;

“How can we thank you enough for the incredible impact you have made on the lives of so many youngsters of Eshowe? Your efforts could be described as tireless, positive, enthusiastic, meticulously planned, generous and highly professional. Each year you have come to Eshowe, you have fine-tuned your sports leadership programme to extract the most benefit possible from your time with our Grade 7s. Your students engage actively with our Grade 7s and the departure is always an emotional one. The gifts of sporting equipment that you leave with us each year are highly appreciated and the Grade 7s particularly enjoy receiving their soccer shirts.

Thanks also, particularly from John Wesley, for the students who spent time in our classrooms and presented innovative and exciting lessons to our children. It was such a pleasure to have you as a youthful and energetic presence in our school for a week.

We look forward to similar interactions between us in the coming years.”

South African Students with FootballsThe programme not only helps the South African students to develop new skills, but it also increases our students’ skills. This year, over the course of the project, our students demonstrated an average improvement of 31% in 18 key employability skills. This will help them to stand out from the crowd once they leave University, making them attractive to top employers. Not only this, it is an experience they will never forget.

Emily Faux, one of our Gryphons Abroad students said;

“Gryphons Abroad was more than I ever thought two weeks could be. I learnt so much about the challenges that so many people face and I helped to make a genuine, sustainable difference with the University’s partner schools. I made incredible friends and memories to last a lifetime.”

Jessica McCarrick, another one of our students commented;

“There is no better way to gain skills and push yourself in a teaching environment, whilst having fun and making friends. Truly an incomparable experience that I would recommend to all.”

Check out the blogs the students wrote during the two weeks to get a real insight into what the trip involved and take a look at our Instagram to see it all in action! All photos from this year’s trip are available to view here.

Applications to be part of the Gryphons Abroad 2020 team are now open until Friday 27 September. Apply now for the chance to be part of this fantastic project, allowing you to experience another country’s culture whilst developing yourself and making a clear impact on students’ lives in South Africa.