Pools' National Citizen Service Manager, Vicki Burton, brings us the first of what will be regular Blogs as she leads staff and students in a trip to South Africa.
Hi everyone and welcome to our #PoolsinAfrica blog.
Some of you may remember from last year, that a group from HUCSF visited Kenya to take part in a life-changing trip and, due to its success, we decided to embark upon another one this year.
My name is Vicki and I’m the NCS Manager for Hartlepool United Community Sports Foundation.
NCS is a government-funded programme for 16-17 year olds on which they develop the key skills they need to transition from school leaver into an active member of their local community. Last summer, over 100 local teenagers completed the programme with us and so became NCS graduates.
As an NCS graduate, there are lots of opportunities and extension activities available, one of which is our annual trip abroad. This year, we have linked up with Adventures for Students, who have bags of experience and a fantastic reputation for providing extension opportunities for NCS graduates.
Myself and Nobbsy (the gaffer, Keith) met with Adam and Terri from AFS and discussed potential trips we could embark upon and eventually we decided on South Africa.
The young people who took part all agreed to raise £2,300 for their place in only six months; this in itself is an absolutely incredible feat and, from me, I would like to extend my absolute gratitude and admiration to the families, supporters and local businesses who helped make this dream a reality for our local teenagers.
Next up, I’ll introduce you to the travelling group…
Myself (NCS Manager)
Chris Burton (HUCSF Lead Coach)
Craig Linsel (NCS graduate 2014 and full-time HUCSF coach)
Ethan Wood (Former HUFC Youth Team captain and NCS team leader)
Luke Duffy (NCS Team Leader)
So, on to our trip and what we’ve been up to so far!
We met Terri at the ground at 9am on Tuesday before saying our goodbyes, getting some photographs, drying some eyes (mostly the parents) and heading up to Newcastle Airport. Once there, we had all of our documents checked (immigration in South Africa are very strict for under 18s travelling without parents) and, apart from one or two minor issues, we went through without hassle.
It took us about five minutes after security to lose someone - Alex and James decided that getting their Burger King was way more important than waiting for everyone and so off they went to feed their faces!
Our first flight departed at 13:45 to Dubai and it was very bumpy to say the least! Seven hours later, we arrived and set off on the long, long, loooooooooong walk through Dubai International Airport.
We headed through security easily (except for me and Millie who set off the alarms and had to get searched in a separate room!) and made our way for some food. At 2am you would expect the airport to be quiet and things to be shut - this was absolutely not the case! Think Teesside Park on 24th December!
We met at the next gate and headed through to board the flight from Dubai to Cape Town, only it wasn’t quite what we expected. Alex pointed out that he couldn’t see the plane, but when we saw the shuttle bus we assumed it would be just across the tarmac. A fifteen minute (!) drive later, we arrived at the plane. Another bumpy flight, but most of the group slept for most of the journey and even missed the ‘Bunny Chow’ sandwiches!
Arriving in South Africa was fairly smooth, until we tried to pass through immigration! Remember I mentioned earlier about immigration being strict?! 12 of our 15 young people got through without a hitch, but unfortunately three of them, with the same documentation, were made to wait as immigration weren’t sure their documents would suffice! However, the big boss came over and told the staff there were no issues whatsoever and off we went. Even when we’re super-organised, you still need to expect some minor issues.
We collected our bags with ease, because by the time we got through immigration, there were no bags left on the carousel except for ours! We then met up with Adam, and he introduced us to Dan who runs Greensleeves Orphanage with his wife Sarah. We boarded the buses and set off to our accommodation for tonight.
Once we had a shower and got changed, we had some lunch and boarded the buses before heading to Table Mountain. We went up in a cable car, and although Chris and Charlie were a bit frightened, we all made it to the top! The views across Cape Town were breathtaking and we got some incredible photos and some even better ice-cream! We spent some time walking around at the top; it was much bigger than any of us thought it would be.
Once we came back down and waited for Sam to spend what felt like an hour in the gift shop (lucky mam!), we headed to the Waterfront. We had an hour walking around, looking in the shops and getting something to drink before heading back to the buses. (I actually missed a big chunk out here and failed to tell you that I got everyone lost about three times, but oh well!).
So now we’re back at Valley Heights Guest House having a well-deserved, relaxing Wednesday evening while Adam and Dan have gone out to get us all pizzas! Some of the group are in the pool and some are playing cards, while some are just trying to stay awake or repack their cases and keep them under the weight ready for tomorrow’s flight (Sorrell and Eleanor!).