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Katie's trip of a lifetime

Katie's trip of a lifetime

The CVQO Westminster award finalist trip to South Africa was without a doubt one of the best two weeks of my life and I know that I will never forget it. I have made some lifelong friendships and experienced things I never imagined I would get the chance to.

The 11-hour plane journey gave us all time to get to know each other and started off those bonds that grew stronger throughout the trip. After we had landed, our first port of call was to get to the first camp we would be staying at for the first three nights called Elandsheim. Our first activity when we arrived was to complete a muddy assault course and take part in team activities, just to really make sure we got to know each other very well.

During our stay here, we learned about the history of the Zulu tribes and the battle of Rorke’s Drift, we were even fortunate enough to visit the museum created where the battle took place. An amazing fact and piece of British history I learned was that this battle was where the most Victoria Crosses were won in a single battle. We also walked the Isandlwana battlefields tour, which showed us some of the beautiful landscapes of the country and encountering the famous Buffalo River which we crossed, barefooted.

One of my personal favourite experiences here was in the evenings before we went to bed we would all lay down on the field and look up at the stars. They were so incredible not like anything I have ever seen before, we could even see the milky way and the more shooting stars than I could even count. It was just spectacular and I will always remember the beautiful starry African nights.

We left the camp on the minibus to go to our next destination, on the way we played karaoke which was hilarious and a good way to pass the time. Our next stop where we would be staying for the majority of our trip was Albizia camp in Hluhluwe. After settling down and picking tents we gathered round the campfire for a talk about the current global poaching situation, we all asked questions to get a better understanding of what was going on in other countries and things we weren’t exposed to back in the UK. It is safe to say a few of us were choked up or had a tear in our eye unfortunately not for the right reasons. It is so sad what goes on and makes me very angry and want to help.

After this we had our first ever Indaba session, this is where we all sit around the campfire and we had chosen an Indaba stick which was used when someone wanted to speak, no one else could speak unless they were holding the stick. Our first session included people sharing past experiences they have had both good and bad, things they were afraid of or just anything they wanted to get off their chest. Some more tears were shed but it was well worth it and I’m sure everyone will agree we are all now closer as a group because of it. What more perfect of a setting than the beautiful Umkhumbi safari lodge, surrounded by nature and true ‘wild camping’.

The next day was very interesting and probably the most unforgettable day, not necessarily for the right reasons though. Today we skinned and dissected a Nyala Bull. I watched from the sidelines. It was upsetting to think this animal was alive before I had eaten my breakfast that morning, however, it showed us all just how real the circle of life is. I can still smell it now though, yuck not one of my favourite things I have ever done! The rest of the day we went on an adventure walk through the conservation park we were staying in, came across lots of evidence of previous animal action such as footprints of hippos on the bankside and hyena’s faeces, which actually turn white due to the amount of calcium they intake from the bones of their food.

Our project the next day was to help join two conservations so that the animals have a place to roam. To do this we took down a 3km fence and barbed wire - this meant that our South Africa team really had to work together. All the members of the conservation park were so pleased with the worked we had done and how quickly we had done it. It would have taken them nearly three times as long if we weren’t there to chip in. We then trekked through the bush looking for a zebra that went missing recently. During this time, we witnessed Tommy use his tracker expertise; for example, pointing out to us that the zebra’s dung was only an hour old. Sadly, we were not able to find the zebra but it was still an experience to remember.

A new experience today for most of the team as we went to a local school. All the children were so friendly and loved seeing us, plenty of high fives and piggybacks to go round and they were all fascinated by our long golden hair. Plenty of pictures were taken with us and they loved seeing the picture on the screen. We were then tasked with giving presentations to the classes about rhino poaching and getting them to understand the importance of how dangerous it is and how it can impact their future. It was quite difficult because at first, they didn’t understand us as there was a language barrier, but as soon as I started talking about the big five they all sprung to life and were getting involved putting their hands up and answering the questions. We were also able to play a game of football and volleyball with the kids, who were surprisingly good!

Today we went to another school to do another talk about poaching. After we did the presentation the school performed lots of different songs to us. Then a young girl who spoke amazing English talked to us about Nelson Mandela day. We performed a pretty tuneful rendition of the national anthem to them and they responded by singing the South African anthem to us. We then took part in a mini sports day - some of us played football, netball, and volleyball and of course, there was lots of singing and dancing. To finish the day, the teachers insisted that we had a whole school photo, which was absolutely amazing. On the way home from the school we took part in a home visit where we saw how the grandparents made the sleeping mats used in Zulu households. Once they gave us a talk about it, we helped them with making food, planting vegetables and collecting water from the well.

Next, was our well-deserved rest and relaxation day and we were all excited to head to the beach and work on our tans. I don’t think any of us were prepared for the walk ahead of us once we parked up at the gates of the bay. We slid our way through the sand and down the hills, passing some ancient fish traps, which date back to over 2,000 years ago with the technique being passed down the generations. The sight we were met with is like nothing I’ve ever seen or will ever see again; with beautiful clear water, sandbars and green hills that surrounded the bay and opened only for the ocean. We splashed about in the water, played football and had a laugh as not only a team but now a group of friends that has honestly come so far since day one.

Game drive day, we set off in two trucks with open tops down the road to Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park. This journey was almost colder than the ‘mud island’ (Tommy’s nickname for the UK) but we soon warmed up and the real fun began. Despite the early start it was a relatively relaxing day with our aim being to see lots of animals, especially the famous big five. First came the wildebeest then the impala and the nylala, buffalo and finally some elephant before stopping for a braai (bbq). After lunch we had even more success spotting animals – we saw plenty of white rhinos which are truly amazing to see, weighing a hefty two tonnes, but even more fascinating was seeing three wild dogs and a glimpse of a lioness, both of which are a rare sight to see.

The last day was my 17th Birthday, how memorable to wake up in my new found favourite country. Probably one of the most special birthdays I will have in my lifetime. I opened my presents from my parents that I had carried with me the whole trip and had been so excited to open. Then, unfortunately, it was time for us to head to the airport for our final day together as the team.

We were looked after so well during our time in their beautiful country, the South African tour guides and coordinators made my time out there just that extra bit special. They have all sparked something in me to be more like them and the experience would 100% have been different without them. Since going to South Africa my life has most definitely changed for the better. It has been a whirlwind of busy cadet nights, awards ceremonies presentations and I have well and truly been rushed off my feet.

CVQO and the Duke of Westminster Award have helped my Sea Cadet career to prosper beyond my belief and it has opened doors for me that I didn’t even know were there. For example, a picture of me and the Captain of the SCC at the House of Lords made it onto the Sea Cadets Main Social Media sites for thousands to see, I have had an invitation from the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire to attend his Awards ceremony and to receive an award myself. Even things like my mum posting on Facebook how proud she is of me, then me getting dozens of replies from friends and family congratulating me and telling me in person what an amazing young lady they think I am. It is a really big confidence boost to show me that I am doing something right. Not to mention the brilliant qualifications that I have gained along the way.

We are such lucky young people to have the opportunity to gain the complex qualifications we have obtained from doing this award. They are nationally known, and I appreciate how much value they are worth not just on my CV but in the skills gained from completing them too, I will take these leadership qualities with me through every future job or Sea Cadets role I can.

I cannot put into words how life changing and spectacular my two weeks out there were, and the effect they have had on me as a person. It has made me realise things about myself I thought I knew but discovered in more depth when in close proximity with the other teammates. Things like learning to laugh at things that don't matter, and that it is the little things in life that make it so amazing and memorable and these little things will fuel certain memories that bring you back to those experiences.

TIA ‘This Is Africa’

Katie is a Leading Cadet at Warsash Sea Cadets and a 2018 Westminster Award Finalist.

 

 

New Year's Honours: Johanna Rohan

New Year's Honours: Johanna Rohan

Johanna Rohan, Chair of Canterbury Sea Cadets, recently received a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for services to young people in Kent. We caught up with her to find out what she thinks of it all…

It is a great honour and was a surprise to be recognised for the voluntary work that I have been doing with Canterbury Sea Cadets, of which I have been involved with for just over 15 years! It needs to be said that of course there are many other people who have been on this journey with me, whom, without their encouragement to carry on fundraising, I would have become very disheartened.

My two boys joined Canterbury Sea Cadets and both stayed until they were 16, our unit was a very cold tumbled down building which in the time that we were there became quite a dangerous place and not fit for purpose. So, the brief was to find money and a site to build a new unit. As Canterbury Sea Cadets have been around for over 50 years we knew it was worth saving!

I would like to add, as a parent of former cadets, just how important the Sea Cadets were in their lives, when we all went through a very rocky three years in our personal lives, Sea Cadets was the one thing that was a routine, every Tuesday and Thursday was cadet night and they couldn't wait to get there.

I was very grateful to the staff who ran the cadets and the dedication that they showed. Without staff, there would have been no unit nights. By joining the committee, it was my way to say thank you. I just didn't realise I was going to stay so long!!

It took more than three years to get everything together and we now have a great new building adjacent to the River Stour. It meant long evenings writing and rewriting application forms and visiting businesses to ask for help, it was fantastic to see the building rise from the ground and even better now to see cadets in it and boats outside of it!

Onward we go, raising funds to complete the second floor, a container and a mini-bus!! THE JOURNEY NEVER ENDS!!

Thanks to Johanna for all of her hard work over the years, and congratulations on her well-deserved BEM!

Why running puts the biggest smile on my face!

Why running puts the biggest smile on my face!

With many cadets, volunteers, parents and staff taking part in our My Mighty Marathon challenge this New Year, we thought we would ask some of them about their activities. Charlie Maling, a Training Development Officer in the national office, is a keen runner and shares how she started the New Year…

It was 9 am on 1 January 2019 and I was jogging down to the local underground station. Quite a few partygoers were still wandering in the opposite direction, after plenty of New Year’s Eve merriment! So why was I in bed at ten and jumping up early on New Year’s Day rather than ‘going out and having fun’?

The answer is that on 1 January every year, Serpentine Running Club host their New Year’s Day 10k race in Hyde Park. Ten kilometres of brisk, chilly winter morning racing – for most, run on a sore head. For me, though, running hard on the first day of a new year sets the tone for the way I want the next 364 to go.

I jogged from Marble Arch to the race start where my friends were waiting. We dropped our bags and started to warm up. It was lovely to be out chatting and socialising rather than complaining about a hangover! At eleven am, we lined up on the packed and buzzing start line waiting for the final countdown.

Three…two…one… we were off! It was cold enough that my shoelaces felt like tiny whips against my ankles and I huddled in behind taller runners for the first couple of miles to keep out of the wind. Nevertheless, I have never felt so strong! I didn’t want to begin my new year with the guilty feeling of having indulged too much over Christmas. I wanted to begin by achieving something, by setting the bar for the year ahead. My goal was to run a PB (personal best) and to finally dip under 40 minutes for 10km. I felt great throughout the race – it was fun to look at the startled stares of dog walkers who had dragged themselves out for their pets’ first walk of the year, and I even relished pushing through the pain barrier at 7km, overtaking those who had set off too fast or had a drink too many the night before. Even the bit at the end where I had to dodge two geese and a squirrel was exhilarating.

I finished the race in 39 minutes 13 seconds, joined minutes later by two of my female team-mates, which meant we won the team prize! The race photos say it all – I was grinning all over my face. Beginning the year with a hard, fast run leaves me feeling like I can do anything I put my mind to. It leaves me feeling strong and determined. And best of all, running in the morning means I can eat as much as I like for brunch!

If you’re taking part in My Mighty Marathon, whether you’re doing one mile at a time or tackling all of them at once, get in touch and tell us about it at getinvolved@ms-sc.org!

Bobby's South Korea International Exchange

Bobby's South Korea International Exchange

This exchange has been the time of my life. I came away with an open mind and willing to do anything that I was asked to do, and safe to say, that’s exactly what I have done. No was not an answer for me on this trip. From the minute we arrived In the airport, we were greeted with a happy and excited face, and for all the Korean staff, this continued the whole way through, as well as the cadets and escort officers.


Each and every day was jam-packed with fun and exciting activities. I was really excited when I first got the itinerary because of all the activities that we were taking part in. From visiting the DMZ, to having the most fun possible in Everland and Caribbean Bay. The itinerary really accommodated everyone and it was a good balance of activities from cultural, to fun, to water activities. There was something for everyone and from what I could see, everyone really enjoyed themselves!

 

I came away not knowing what to expect and I think that was the best thing to do. I wanted everything to come as a surprise as South Korea has a completely different style of living than home in Northern Ireland. The one thing that really hit me was the heat. Literally! Coming from a country that usually has a temperature of around 14°C and no humidity, to a country with an average 36°C and very high humidity, it was hard to get used to! But hey, I’m not complaining, I got to work on my suntan...

 

I can’t choose a favourite between all of the activities. But the ones that stood out the most were the visit to the Navy Fleet, the DMZ Tour, and the day out to Caribbean Bay and Everland. But as I said, I thoroughly enjoyed every other activity.

 

 

I can’t thank the Korean staff enough for making this trip the best it could be. We were treated like royalty from the moment we arrived until the second we left! And nothing was a problem for them, everything was done with a smiling face. I really enjoyed teaching Cindy how to speak Northern Irish. What’s the craic?! It’s boiling! Fish and chips!!


The one thing that really got to me was that the Hard Rock Café Seoul was closed for renovation. But I understand, it isn’t your fault!

 

I have to say though, the water activities were amazing. Participating in the SEK National Regatta was an amazing experience. Competing against each other in various events was very fun. And the fun water activities like the water slide, banana boating and kayaking were also amazing.

 

I found that every cadet who participated in the exchange clicked straight away. Yes, there were language barriers etc but we did find ways to overcome these, and by the second day, we were all like one family!

 

I enjoyed all the activities but I also enjoyed going out at night time. Even the simple trips to the convenience store. I thought this was a great opportunity for the group to ‘mingle’ even more than what we already did. The first night when we arrived and went to the convenience store and Olympic Torch when all the group was together was amazing because everybody started talking straight away and the Korean staff really made everyone feel welcome.

 

 

I can’t thank everybody enough for making my birthday amazing. I really wasn’t expecting to come out of a lift and get attached with balloons and singing but I really did appreciate it. I thought it was a really good idea with putting the papers up on the wall and getting everyone to write a message because that is something that each person will cherish forever! And the gift exchange... I wasn’t expecting to be bombarded with so many different gifts from everyone but it helped to make the experience. But this will also be something that I’ll keep forever!

 

Lastly, I want to give my thanks to Alex, who made this exchange possible for not just me, but for every cadet within the United Kingdom who got selected to go on the exchange. You really did give us the experience of a lifetime!


Get your applications in as soon as possible. I can assure you, you will not regret it!

 

Good luck!

 

 

Able Cadet Bobby, 16, from Lisburn, took part in the Sea Cadets International Exchange 2018. To find out more about our International Exchange programme contact awebb@sea-cadets.org

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