Blog | The trip of a lifetime
‘The trip to Gambia has definitely changed me as a person. It sounded like a bit of a cliché when all the leaders before said we would become changed people from this trip but I now realise they were right.’
Amy is an Explorer Scout who has just returned from a trip to The Gambia with the rest of her unit. Whilst there they worked tirelessly to help repair roofs and create gardens, and to deliver clothes, mosquito nets and money donated from back home.
So how does Amy think the trip changed her? ‘I now have a completely different outlook on my life and the way I live and I have learnt that even though sometimes it seems like things are bad, I actually am really lucky for what I have got. A lot of people, for example, complain about having to go to school and college but in Gambia they were really excited to be able to learn and that has taught me to enjoy my education and to try my best as I have the chance to unlike so many others.’
The 34 Explorers who went on the trip are part of Hampshire Scouts, who have been working in the Gambia for 25 years since they first sent a party of Scouts to build the Kaira Konko Scout Lodge community centre, now run as a business and supported by Scouts like Amy.
Amy spent two and a half weeks in the Gambia, and says the people she met and the culture she experienced there are some of her fondest memories. ‘The highlight for me was experiencing a different culture and meeting the local people who were so welcoming and friendly everywhere you went,’ she said. ‘There was a real sense of trust and support out there and everyone was willing to give and help even though they have very little themselves…on the last day we each got given a named envelope with a bracelet inside from the Gambian Scouts and that was moving – not only had they given us a gift but they had taken the time to learn all of our names in just two weeks.’
Of course, adapting to a new culture can have its tricky moments too. Amy says the way of life in the Gambia is incredibly busy and bustling. ‘It is a completely different way of life, and everyone was so friendly and wanting to talk to you which meant it was always busy and loud and sometimes it was a bit overwhelming. However, there was a little garden which was quiet and a nice place to go for a bit of peace, which really helped me cope with the new environment I was in and meant I could enjoy the rest of my trip.’
Amy’s trip to the Gambia is just one of the great things she’s been able to do at Scouts. Having joined Scouts as an Explorer when she was 14 and making some good friends across Hampshire, she also had the chance to take part in Suisse Adventure 2013, and now credits Scouts with helping her apply for college, uni and various jobs since. What have been the best bits for her? 'Meeting amazing people both locally and internationally, and making some lifelong friends. I’ve learnt some amazing life skills too – first aid, cooking and surviving in tough conditions. Then there are the life-changing opportunities like coming to The Gambia!’