TEN students from Chester Catholic High School had a close encounter with angry hippos and thieving baboons on a summer challenge.
Greg Allister, Tom Donnelly, Natasha McDonald, John Bulmer, Chris Pendleton, Hollie Maiden, Aled Matthias, Sam Arathoon, Richard Farley and Abby Vella travelled to Kenya on an expedition which included being charged by a herd of hippopotamuses and having their lunch stolen by a troop of baboons.
Accompanied by maths teacher Richard Ives, the group taught classes of 50 children at a school in Gilpil, dealing with challenging subjects like AIDS. At least half of the class had lost their parents to the disease.
They also planted trees and played football and danced with ‘street boys’ who were being look after at an orphanage.
Money raised by the group before the trip was used to clear the orphanage’s debt at the local supermarket, buy football kits and footballs and provide funds to pay for the boys’ exams for the next 12 months.
Tom, who is now studying maths and physics at Warwick University, said: “The boys are living in a converted cowshed, with no chairs and no running water, yet they are full of life, carry themselves with dignity and refuse to look upon their circumstances with anything other than positivity.”
Mr Ives describes climbing Mt Kenya as one of the hardest things he had ever done. The trek to the summit was beset with food poisoning, elephants blocking the routes and altitude sickness but eight out of the 10 reached the peak.
Chris, who has started a medical degree course at Queen Mary’s College in London, said: “Reaching the summit for sunrise was unbelievable and left us speechless.”
Mr Ives added: “The students were a real credit to themselves and the school. I had expected them to grow and mature but was still amazed to see how much this was the case.
“The trip at times was incredibly difficult and they often wished they were at home in their comfort zones, however, they all endured and had an experience which I am sure will remain with them for a long time.”
The expedition was organised in conjunction with Outlook Expeditions and the students had prepared for two years in advance of the visit with full training for the work in school and the mountain expedition.