Saturday, 8 October 2016

XLP Trip to Bulgaria with CRED and ST PAUL'S ACADEMY Students

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


What seems fitting is the slogans that epitomise the two charities that have provided the Year 11 leavers' trip to Bulgaria. In a single context of volunteering within this country, the charities have achieved something incredible, simply by providing 'positive futures for young people' and 'participation and transformation' of students into adults. In summing up this week in Bulgaria the first thing to do is to cast my mind back to selection - about 9 months ago - where XLP worked with St Paul's Academy to select the students and assist in making their trip a reality. We have had several meetings - often related to teaching the students within the country and what to expect - but not to mention the countless fundraising endeavours to raise the money needed just for flights. Please see Alastair's and Eric's sponsored bike ride below:

The students were prepared for educational sessions at the kidergarten, meeting the orphans in the orphanage and helping the Roma community in the park. Yet I can only portray a snapshot of what was achieved by these outstanding young people from our school. I believe that their own student voices convey a more powerful message of what happened and show you that changing lives whilst  improving their own range of attributes is possible within he confines of St Paul's Academy. Please read the Geography blog to see their own achievements:

Bulgaria – Day 1 – We are off!


Today is finally the day that we travelled to Bulgaria. We all had to meet up at school at 3am and most of us hadn’t slept at all. In the minibus the suitcases were packed up very highly at the back, so that at every bend and turn the suitcases nearly fell over onto the people sitting in front of them and behind them. We got to the airport on time and the transition within the airport was very smooth.

On the flight everyone was very tired and everyone except me, Morejoy and Laura fell asleep. So I decided to take this opportunity and decided to record everyone sleeping. It was a very funny moment. Then once we reached Sofia we travelled to the bus station to go to Stara Zagora. Then we got to our hotel at last and the best thing about the hotel is the free Wi-fi.
Once we had settled in, we took a quick walk around and came back and ate dinner. We are now currently busy planning our lessons for tomorrow.

The Blue Dot Called The World by Francesca Moore

You shouldn’t criticise what you don’t understand,
Before, I boarded the plane today for the very first time in my life, I was extremely scared.
But once I was in the air I understood the beauty of flying.
This was being able to look down on the world from a different perspective,
And realise the true magnificence of what we live on.
The clouds are only a compliment to the pureness of the nature around us.
This goes to show that any experience can change anything.

Bulgaria Team – Monday

Our second day started with an early start. Well for some on us anyway! After a quick breakfast, we headed out to the close by kindergarten. Although, we planned our activities the night before, we had no idea what to expect nor did we know any of the language. We headed into a classroom where the children just looked at us with blank faces. After 5 minutes our translators came to our aid. In fact they were our saviours! The first game was difficult to explain to the class knowing that they had no idea what we were saying. But, it was great preparation for our next groups. The children soon came out of their shell. They were incredibly welcoming and up for all the activities we had planned. Even though not everything went to schedule and didn’t see all the classes we were expecting, it became easier to make connections with the children. Even though, we weren’t as confident as anticipated, the children brought us out of our shell through their excitement. The children we went to see are all part of a neighbourhood, which consisted of Roma residents. We learned that the Roma community originated from India and that they were nomadic. They are discriminated against by the Bulgarian community and as they do not speak Bulgarian, they speak their own language; they are left to be outcasts. Even though they’re discriminated against, it doesn’t affect their education especially with generous people such as Gancho.

After a lunch (that consisted of large pizza’s Gancho bought for us!) it was time to make the kindergarten look eye-catching by painting the fence green and weeding the pathway. It was a lot of work especially in the heat. However, we did our best.

As a result of a hardworking day, we was reward by amazing ice cream and took a stroll to our hotel. We look forward to our day with them tomorrow and seeing what new memories our made from a great experience.
-Maroulla & Morejoy

Feel free to leave us comments after reading the blog! We love hearing from you all and getting support and encouragement! 🙂
The Team teaching at the Kindergarten:

The Team painting and weeding at the Kindergarten:




Bulgaria Team – Tuesday

Today was interesting; I met the children for the last time in the kindergarten. They were nice. I played games with them for example, 1-2-3-4 games, which were based similarly to Simon, says but for each number there’s a set action. Overall it was a great experience and I hope to see these children grow aspire to their dreams.

After all that, we completed painting the fences, which look awesome now and also as a team we painted other obstacles in the playground. From doing this it made the school more visually pleasing for both the school kids and their parents.

Then we played rugby by the entrance which was fun also and lastly we ate dinner all-together at the local restaurant, the food was nice.
By Alistair


Today we went back to the kindergarten and the kids responded in an amazing manner! As soon as we re-entered their joy-filled classrooms they darted towards us like antelopes running from predators. It seemed as though they never got tired of running like headless chickens. We worked with children who had been unable to pass their education and were left behind in school; hence they had been put into classes where they will catch up. Whilst playing with the children it was clear that it was the small things that satisfied them. It was evident the effect that we had on them was clearly positive; the range of activities we had for them proved to be both engaging and exhilarating.

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today” – Jackson Brown
A Great Big World by Laura and Eric

Bulgaria Team – Wednesday

Today was a day that consisted of surprises. First being dropped off at the wrong place and the cabs leaving us, we then had to find our own way to the home. Arriving at the residential home we were met with lovely children who unfortunately had severe special needs. As this was unexpected it did become very emotional for some. We also had a lot of improvisation to do as we had to make up activities on the spot because we hadn’t planned to cater for individual needs that we weren’t aware of. It was hard to know what each child wanted to do in terms of whether they were more interested in things that involved sound, touch or movement, however as the time went by we were able to make them happy with what we were doing. After leaving the home we went to a local park to have a picnic where we must have had the worlds largest watermelon! Everyone then settled down by the fountain and enjoyed cooling off with their feet in the water. Before then leaving to head back to the hotel Hannah and Eric went on a water run to fill bottles and got cooled off even more when they didn’t understand what a woman was saying which resulted in the woman throwing water on them! We then headed back to the hotel, stopping for ice cream on the way (like always) and look forward to another chilled night whilst venturing out for something to eat in a new restaurant.

“Be prepared for the unexpected”
By Lauren.

“Yesterday was history, tomorrow’s a mystery and today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present” By Alastair

Bulgaria Team – Thursday

Today was another eventful day. In the morning we all went to a park where we then met with 40 kids with different age ranges. We split the kids into 3 different groups and taught them about different values to do with the Olympics; friendship, courage and equality. In my group we spoke about what it meant to have courage and went round in a circle asking the kids what courage meant to them. Then we played a few games, which also presented this theme. Later on, we all went to a youth centre where we watched presentations. This helped to give us a better understanding of the work that Gancho and the youth centre does. We all planned something to perform or show to the youth worker’s about either our culture or something that we liked to do. After the joy-filled of performances we were all treated with homemade Bulgarian food.

By Francesca and Eric

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen” – Winston Churchill
At the Park:

At the Youth Centre:

Bulgaria Team – Friday

Today the working week ended! On our last day working with the children of Stara Zagora, we met with the same kids as yesterday – being recognised and saying our hellos was great, especially with the younger kids who got very excited to see us again – and split them into the same groups. Today, however, we took the through the values of Respect, Determination and Inspiration, everyone giving their own small mini-speech (with the help of our translators) to explain their perspective of value, and give the kids ideas that they can take away, to use in their daily lives and to think about. Afterwards, we played a series of value-related games and activities, and then repeated each session with every group. We had great fun, more so than yesterday as they were all much readier to get involved with people they knew (as well as us using games that they would enjoy), particularly at the end of the session where the whole 40 kids got together and we had a competition to see who could mummify a pair of kids the best (with toilet rolls of course). Team Determination won, although obviously they cheated and Team Respect deserved to win. But we let them take the win. Because you know. Respect.


After everything, we had a big goodbye-session, involving many group photos and selfies; after the kids had gone we had ourselves a nice picnic, with sandwiches and crisps (and plenty of Coca-Cola), and relaxed by a beautiful fountain until we set off to the Roma community. We hiked there, walking a good while up a mountain to get to the Roma settlement. There, we saw the vast range of conditions people lived in; everything from extravagant, multi-coloured homes to Soviet-era apartment blocks, to unfinished, graffiti-covered bungalows. The roads were heavily eroded and the small river beneath a sewer/aqueduct/bridge was clogged with rubbish and waste. However, the people seemed happy when we encountered an on-going street party, with music and dancing, and they were friendly enough too. After this eye-opening experience, we made our way back to the hotel (with a quick stop at Gancho’s office to rest our feet), where I am now writing this blog!

By Stephen.

Walking Tour of the Roma Community:

Bulgaria Team – Saturday and Sunday

Apologies for not blogging yesterday – it was an action packed day filled with much fun and sadly a camera malfunction!  So you will have to wait for the full stories in person from your delightful children.

Today we said goodbye to Stara Zagora and journeyed back to Sofia.  It was a day of souvenir buying, sight seeing, escape room team games and of course food!
I know the team are all looking forward to seeing you all and sharing their many stories from the week – but for now they have their final thoughts to share with you as our week together draws to a close…

Even though the time we spent was short, the work we achieved was timeless.
~ Miles
I’ve learnt so much that I wouldn’t learn in my everyday life. This whole experience has taught me to overall grab opportunities.

~ Lauren
This trip has given me some of my best memories and it has enabled me to approach life’s difficulties with a smile on my face.

As this was my first time visiting another country I was a little nervous however, words cannot possibly explain how incredible this trip has been. It has taught me life long skills and things that I have never experienced before. I will remember this trip and the fun I had for the rest of my life. A massive thank you to everyone who organised this trip and those who came as we all made it memorable for life.

– Francesca
An incredible week, one of the best of my life; experiences I will never forget, memories that will never fade!

Words will never be able to describe our amazing experience here but our actions will be forever told to others.

The last week has been extremely rewarding and successful. The memories and experiences from the past week will never be forgotten and will always be treasured for the rest of our lives.

This week has shown me that all the small things that I take for granted on a daily basis could have one of the biggest changes to those less privileged.

This week has been a true experience of a lifetime. Thinking back on the past week has made me realise that all the small things we take for granted could mean a great deal to someone else. I honestly couldn’t think of anything to beat the amazing experience I have had an the generosity I have been shown.
I realised this week that it is the simple things in life, which can brighten someone’s day. I feel honoured that I was able to bring make such an impact on the lives of others with just the simple things. It shows that if we all do a little we can impact someone’s life a lot.

Always remember the present but never forget the past. Remember you can catch a fish for someone which can feed them for a day or you could teach them how to fish which can feed them for a lifetime. Teaching the kids this week and being able to understand and learn the Bulgarian culture was a huge life changing experience that I will never forget but what I will cherish for the rest of my life.

The relationships we’ve built as a team and individually will always be cherished and remembered.
People like Gancho, Dian and Vicki will never be forgotten.
The communities that we have visited will always remember our visit, though not long but they will never forget the impact that we have made to their lives.
The fence we have painted may get dis-coloured – rusty and the crops may re-grow, but the children will remember that as a team we made a difference to their school and the principle and students will remember it for a lifetime.

These young people not only have an effect on their own moral, spiritual and social development through participating in this trip but transform the lives of others by displaying a usefulness in the world, especially to the lives of those less fortunate than themselves.

Teaching can be a hard profession but it’s the moment we share as teachers with students that make it rewarding. I write to parents/guardians to convey that I have shared the week with inspirational young adults. I have witness them rise to challenges, be positive role models to school children and aspire to young adults that I am proud to know. Your children are the reason I teach and it has been a privilege to spend time outside the classroom with them. You are all inspirational individuals and I am honoured to have taught you. I will convey to the school how you have been ambassadors in Bulgaria. Keep in contact.
Mr Davis
I would also like to thank Ian, Danielle and Hannah for truly inspirational leadership and making the trip a success. Timeless memories I will cherish.

For more pictures and videos click here

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