“If you can’t fly, then run, If you can’t run, then walk, If you can’t walk, then crawl, But by all means keep moving forward” Before leaving Belfast I had a feeling as if I was 10 and about to get on a rollercoaster. I was worried as I was walking into a place I’ve been before but a place I haven’t experienced what I was about to experience. But not to forget the excitement I was feeling, just so keen and eager to dive in with two feet and take it by the scruff of the neck day by day and couldn’t wait to see how we as a team were about to react and adapt to this journey. Africa was a completely different experience last year with the my choice group, we were looking at choices and consequences and on how this has an impact on your life. So even after being here last year I still didn’t know on what lied in front of me and what was behind the closed door I was just about to open. Having to pick one highlight has been the hardest thing I’ve been asked to do and something I can’t do as out here personally and as a team we’ve shared so many. One of my standout highlights for me has been during our groups debriefs and just seeing how strong of a team we are and how much support and care we share for each other because if you asked me 3 weeks ago during our debriefs will you go into full depth, I would have said no but seeing how open and caring the group became I didn’t even have to hesitate about that. Another highlight for me was the funday that we hosted. We were all given a job to do, that not surprisingly the team done so well. It was also a challenge, as seeing the kids that we have built relationships with running about but you had a job to do was hard. Seeing how everyone and myself maintained the roles given to us but making the relationships with the kids even stronger was a feeling that reflecting back now is indescribable. Also seeing how happy the kids all were just brought a smile to your face knowing you’re one of the reasons for their happiness. Surprisingly to me was the difference in myself that has developed over the trip as back home I believe I constantly wear a mask, but this experience has given me the opportunity to remove my mask and be myself. Out here you just can’t describe how you feel, it’s as if there’s just something in the air where you can become the real you and laugh when you want to laugh and cry when you need to cry. You are just so comfortable in front of the people around you as they also showed their true colours. Coming out here I knew we were going to impact lives of some people by either showing them love and attention or by just spending time with them. I never thought how much of an impact it would have on me and how hard hitting it would be leaving. I feel as if my emotions were extremely mixed leaving Blanco. The feeling of grievance comes to mind especially, but also the joyfulness you feel as you know you’ve impacted someone’s life. I feel I have grown as a person and don’t fear showing the real me to others and there’s no better place and people to thank than the community of Blanco and my team out here, who have all earned a place in my heart I know I’ll never forget. Redberry farm, where the group brought golden valley crèche out for the day. At Redberry farm and before this I built a strong connection with one of the kids who was only three and couldn’t speak English . Outside the crèche, a few days before heading to the farm I noticed the we girl was scared of going into the crèche, so I went over and lifted her up and showed her some comfort. Spending a day with her and having that language barrier in front of me was a challenge. I had bottles of bubbles in my pocket that I took out and gave to the girl, she didn’t let them out of her sight for the day and from this I give her the nickname Bubbles . Going to Red berry farm and spending time again with “Bubbles” and seeing how much she trusted and wanted me to care for her was amazing. Trailing me about the park, going to the swings and feeding the rabbits gave me a warm feeling within my heart. There was a time in the farm when I didn’t know what to do when I was bringing her on the train. The reason for this is she started to cry, which scared me a little and my first reaction was to give her back to the staff in the crèche, but from this I noticed there was a strong connection because she didn’t want to leave my arms and when I finally got her settled she fell asleep in my arms. This made me realise how it’s not just them impacting us, but us impacting them and a quote that reminds me of this experience is that “love has no language” . Comparing Belfast to Blanco is something that you can’t compare. In Belfast we would complain about not having enough money to go out on a Saturday night where here some people may not have enough money to feed their family for a month etc. Taking all the differences into consideration, but comparing the happiness of the people to Blanco is just scary as they are always smiling and know how to put a smile on your face. Being back home and doing your daily business from just going to the toilet in your house or complaining about having to use the downstairs toilets as it’s too small, it’s scary to see that one township filled with thousands of people only have one working community toilet to share. This has taught me to appreciate more in my own life. The drug misuse here is very high by the older population, which is a negative impact on the younger kids as those they aspire to become may get involved in some of this negativity. The Learning I’ll take home is that I don’t have to be the wealthiest man to be happy and I don’t need a lot of friends to be happy, as I’ve realised time is more precious than money. Having a caring and loving family as well as friends makes you appreciate how important it is to have that shoulder to cry on when you’re at your lowest. This is how I feel about the team I’m surrounded by. Before going back home I’ve realised to myself that it’s okay to take off your mask and let people see the real you. I know it’s impossible to always keep off your mask as it’s something within your nature but moving forward I hope to take it off more often. This is a journey that is only starting and Blanco is a place I refuse to say goodbye to so I’d rather say see you later. The only journey that is impossible is the only journey that you never begin.