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Our News

11 April 2012

Small country, big difference

Travel and Tourism students at Cardiff and Vale College travelled to the smallest country on mainland Africa to witness the big difference that Kotu Trust is making in local communities. They travelled to the West African country of Gambia as part of their Welsh Baccalaureate, to participate in community projects and immerse themselves in a different culture.

The three BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Travel and Tourism students; Kate Heath, 18, Shikira Akhtar, 17 and Amber Mahoney, 19, cycled the distance between Cardiff and London on an exercise bike, cheered on by students in the College’s Trowbridge reception, to raise money to pay towards the trip. The students also received a generous donation from the Penarth Round Table.

On their African excursion, the three students got involved with local schools and communities who are being sponsored by Kotu Trust; a charity that aims to facilitate education and relieve poverty in The Gambia. The students organised activities and lessons for the African children to participate in and also set up a pen-pal scheme. They got 130 letters from teenagers from the local schools, along with a photo of each and every teenager to bring back to college and get fellow students to reply. 

Shikira Akhtar, 17, from Barry, who vows to give some of her EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance) to Kotu Trust each month after her Gambian experience, said: “The experience has made me appreciate the little things in life which I used to take for granted; a mobile phone, a double bed, a colour TV.  It has also made me appreciate the education that I get for free and the excellent range of resources accessible at the College. The students in Gambia were so happy and grateful to attend classes, even though they had very limited resources and even had to share a pencil between three to complete their work. It was so rewarding to get involved with the local communities and get a real taste of the struggles that they face.”

The students also began an enterprising scheme while in The Gambia to raise as much funds as possible to give back to the communities and schools that they visited.

They bought material which they got made into pencil cases/make-up bags in the local market and on returning to the College they are asking staff and students to make a donation of £3 per bag. Each bag that is sold will cover 75 meals in a primary school.

Katy Wilmer, Travel and Tourism lecturer and course tutor at Cardiff and Vale College, accompanied the students on the trip. She said: “It has been such an inspirational trip for all those involved. It has been a real eye opening opportunity to see the differences between Gambia and Wales. It has made everyone think about how the small things in life matter and how much we take for granted. Witnessing first hand some of the work that Kotu Trust does was inspiring. We look forward to developing the links, sharing experiences and helping raise money for Kotu Trust in the foreseeable future.”

While the Travel and Tourism students were on their trip, A Level students got rocking and baking at the College to raise money for Kotu Trust. The students raised £236, as part of their ‘working with others’ Welsh Baccalaureate module, by organising a rock concert and having a bake sale in the reception of the College’s City Road site. The money raised equates to 11,000 Gambian Dalasi which could pay for a young person’s college fees for one year or fund two children to attend primary school for a year.    

Barbara Connell, co-founder of Kotu Trust and Media Studies Lecturer at Cardiff and Vale College, said: “I will be visiting the Gambia over Easter and the monies raised will make a significant difference to the families that we work with.”  

SAM_0752.JPGSchool children in The Gambia showing us their CAVC