DEDICATED teens travelled thousands of miles to help improve education for children in Africa.
Nine volunteers from The Box Youth Project in Hall Farm, Sunderland, spent two weeks in the village of Kajabang in Gambia.
It was a return visit to the country for the caring youth group, after Box members carried out voluntary work in the Gunjur region of Gambia in December 2011.
There they met a group of teachers behind the Abubakarr Siddique Foundation for Needy and Orphan Welfare (AFNOW), which cares for nearly 300 children.
Moved by their plight, the youngsters vowed to spend the next year tirelessly fund-raising, so they could return and offer practical help.
Almost exactly a year later, the hard-working volunteers put their goal in action at the Kajabang’s Lower Basic School.
In just two weeks, they were able to finish off a new school block built from mud bricks and corrugate roofing and brighten up the inside of the building for its 90 pupils.
Volunteers also madeover a run-down outdoor area, repairing play equipment, painting it bright colours, installing obstacle courses and creating an outdoor learning area from tyres.
They also brought new sand to completely resurface the play area, making it safe for children to play outdoors.
One of the volunteers, Vicky Page, aged 17, a student at Bede College in Sunderland, said: “This is the most worthwhile thing I have done in my life.
“The children were so grateful for what we had done and it was an amazing experience.”
As well as carrying out renovation work at the school, the volunteers helped clear land at the village’s Women’s Garden, organise a community fun day for AFNOW, teach in schools and hold arts and crafts workshops in a nursery and a primary school.
Project manager Lisa Wilson-Riddell said: “We are extremely proud of our young volunteers. They are a credit to The Box Youth Project, their families and the city of Sunderland.
“I have been astounded by the commitment and enthusiasm shown by our young volunteers.
“They worked tirelessly to improve the lives of others less fortunate than them in Gambia.
“They have also returned with a much improved understanding of life and can now see the value of opportunities that are available to them in this country.
“I have no doubt that this experience will remain with them for the rest of their lives.”