Scouts go on trip of a lifetime to help underprivileged community

Some of the Scouts and locals.
Some of the Scouts and locals.

Scouts from north Northumberland have completed an expedition to remember, helping under-privileged people in Africa.

The youngsters, from 1st Whittingham BP Scout Group, flew out to Uganda for two weeks over the summer and worked with a community in the hills on the Congo border .

The Scouts with a tippy tap.

The Scouts with a tippy tap.

The Scouts, aged 10 to 17, were based on the edge of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to the mountain gorillas.

The group had raised £40,000 for the trip and got involved in many community projects during their time overseas.

They introduced the locals to tippy taps, which are hand-washing stations made out of plastic bottles and sticks, that help to improve sanitation and reduce illness.

They built stoves out of locally-produced bricks that cook food efficiently, with a flue to take the smoke out of the building.

This is a huge improvement on the three-stone fires in the outhouses that damage lungs and eyes and it reduces the need for the women to hike so far to collect wood.

The Scouts also got involved in a reforestation programme, planting trees such as mahogany, and trees that could be used for medicinal reasons outside the protected forest.

It is vitally important to bring the trees out of the protected park to reduce soil erosion, improve diversity and provide medicinal plants to the people.

The children also met the stretcher group to teach them first-aid skills. The group currently just carries patients on stretchers made out of natural materials, known locally as Ugandan helicopters, to a basic clinic.

With a few basic skills, such as stopping bleeding, bandaging, dealing with a choking patient and being able to do a primary survey of the patient, they will be able to help their patients much more.

The Scouts also had time on their trip to play football and volleyball with local Scouts and schoolchildren, share songs and help to run the local trail run.

The group from Northumberland also had the chance to explore the local wildlife, going chimp tracking and on game drives.

The Scouts were joined by five leaders and a doctor. Reflecting on the trip, Group Scout Leader Ninette Gray, said: “This was a tough expedition, rising with the sun and working hard all day.

“The Scouts worked tirelessly and soon realised how much was achievable with effort and team work and how much it was appreciated by the local community.

“Working alongside local children, they learnt a huge amount about the difference in lifestyles in Uganda and Northumberland and how much they take for granted.

“The Ugandan children wake before dawn to walk huge distances to collect water and firewood and to get to school. Some walk for two hours to get to school and can only go to school if they can afford it and are healthy.

“The children from Northumberland and Africa got to know each other really well and despite their differences were soon laughing, playing, singing and working together.

“None of this would have been possible without the huge help we had from the community back home who supported our massive fund-raising efforts.”

l The Scout group is holding a presentation tonight for people to hear about the trip, with stories, photographs and the chance to try Ugandan food. It takes place at Whittingham Memorial Institute from 6.30pm. It is free and open to everyone.