Students return from charity trip to Sri Lanka

Students from Greater Brighton Metropolitan College recently returned from a trip to Sri Lanka where they worked with young children, painted a school, learned traditional dancing and even pitched their skills against a local cricket team. The excursion, funded by Sussex charity, Fonthill Foundation, is now in its sixth year and is offered to 16 MET students studying on Pathways courses, which are programmes designed to engage young people in education who (for many reasons) have struggled to previously do so.

The students who attended the trip come from a wide range of backgrounds and countries, including the UK, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan, Nepal and Iraq. They include students with learning and behavioural difficulties, and refugees who have been granted asylum. All were selected due to their commitment to their chosen studies and their enthusiasm to help others.

The college worked in partnership with Extra Cover, a charity that provides education, housing, clothes and food to the most vulnerable children in the rural south west of the island. The charity focusses on helping children with special educational needs, providing the students with a diverse range of challenges to overcome during their trip. As well as visiting primary schools and colleges, where the students taught valuable skills such as literacy and maths, the group also experienced Sri Lankan cultural highlights including visits to Buddhist temples, countryside walks, tuk tuk rides and a boat safari. 

Organisers were pleased to see that, as in previous years, the trip brought together a group of students from different Pathways courses, previously unknown to one another and saw them bond through their shared interests and experiences. 

Sharon Purves, a MET College Pathways teacher, accompanied the group. She said:

Through hard work, endurance, mosquito bites, heatstroke and tiredness, these students were taken out of their often stressful lives and had their eyes opened to others who they either identify with or can see are worse off. They pushed themselves and came to realise their own potential for the future. The trip has made them ambassadors, not just for the college, but also for those in their families and friendship groups. I know that they will spread their experiences and go forward to challenge others’ opinions and prejudices.”

Father Robert Easton works with Extra Cover and also went on the trip.

The trip was as inspirational as was hoped for, with Met students going the extra mile to make the children of the remote, economically deprived schools feel wanted and loved. It was a genuine privilege to have been alongside them.”

Vicky Henley, Fonthill Foundation Chair, said:

"We are delighted to have been able to support MET again this year, enabling another group of Pathways Students to have this once in a lifetime experience. I would also like to thank our partner charity, Extra Cover, for making the trip possible.

It is truly wonderful to hear the students’ personal stories, and the impact this life-changing experience has clearly had on them. Many of the young people had very personal challenges to overcome; they have returned stronger and more confident individuals.   

What is most rewarding is that not only does this trip help those who participate from the UK, it also has such a positive impact for the Sri Lankan children, at the schools where the Pathways students volunteered.”

Samantha Bates is a Level 2 Care student. She was on the trip last year, returning as a leader. She described her experience:

It was absolutely amazing – life changing. My highlight was going to one of the schools I went to last year. The children came up to me again, as if they remembered me. I feel as if I have changed their lives, which is the most rewarding thing. I will remember it forever.”

Joshua Schofield studies Construction. He said:

It was amazing, seeing all the kids smiling and teaching them English and maths, which is going to look great for when I join the army.”

The students, teachers and leaders from the trip will have a post-project meeting in May where they will reflect on their experiences and discuss how they will carry them forward into their future studies and lives. 

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