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Cadet team return from African trip of a lifetime.

Byline: Anabelle Walton Reporter

TEENAGE air cadets have returned home after working with an impoverished African community on a once-in-a-lifetime expedition.

The youngsters spent three weeks in South Africa labouring on a life-changing project, trekking, visiting battlefields and big game spotting.

Now the five girls and eight boys from 346 (Tynemouth) and 404 (Morpeth) Squadrons have vowed to return to help continue their transformational aid work.

The cadets, aged 15 to 18, spent the first week of their trip at the Entabeni Education Centre in KwaZulu-Natal in northern South Africa, where they were tasked with creating a sustainable garden at a school in Insonge, an hour's trek from their base.

They dug trenches, tilled the earth, planted trees and vegetables and turned an unpromising patch of dry earth into what will soon be a productive garden producing healthy fruit and other crops for use by the village children and their families.

Insonge's elders were so impressed with the group's efforts they invited them to a coming of age party for two villagers, where they tried the local food and joined in with traditional Zulu tribal dances. Sgt Elliot Rogers, 17, from 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron, said: "I had no expectations before I went but everyone was so welcoming. The work was hard but once you have met the people and seen the lives they lead you have a better understanding.

"It was a great feeling knowing we had made a difference and that the work we did is going to continue having a positive impact on the villagers' lives for years to come."

Sgt Rogers was joined on the trip by his 346 colleagues, Flight Sgt Liam McConville, 16, Corporals Josh Gribbin, 17, and Ben Hennessey, 18, and Cadets Patrick Quinn, Jack Sherrin and Kai Korzonek, all 15, and Callum Watt, 17.

The 404 contingent comprised Corporals Alexandra Sikkink and Rebecca Reed, both 18, Megan Milbourne, 17, and Ellie McGrady, 16, and Cadet Lisa Hunter, 15.

They were accompanied by Sgt Sarah Robson, a 27-year-old veterinary nurse, and civilian instructor Kirsty McVay, 23, a staff nurse at North Tyneside General Hospital, who both volunteer with 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron ATC.

"I know I am a different person after coming back," said Cadet Lisa Hunter. "I feel I have matured since I went away and I have realised there is more to life than I thought.

"I'm now making a conscious effort to be happier every day. Despite having nothing, everyone we met was so enthusiastic about everything. We have nothing to complain about."


The cadets line up during their South Africa trip, halfway up Mount Lebanon. <B Picture: Ellie McGrady

Sgt Elliot Rogers of 346 <B(Tynemouth Squadron at Insonge village school

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Sep 24, 2014
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