Hardit Enjoys African Adventure!
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By Cadet Warrant Officer Hardit Parmar - 2344 (Longbenton) Squadron
Air Cadet Hardit Parmar has enjoyed a three week educational expedition in South Africa after being amongst the top cadets in the UK! The 19 year-old Longbenton Air Cadet has fondly looked back at his venture and given us a taste of his time in Africa.
I found out in June that I had made the top nine finalists in the CVQO Duke of Westminster Awards and would be spending three weeks in South Africa. I was over the moon with the news and full of excitement – I always wanted to see a wild lion and now this dream was a possibility!
I already knew the other eight cadets going as we had met each other at the assessment centre in Somerset where we were interviewed and put through leadership tasks. We began to knit as a team early on and by the time we were ready to take part in our first venture we were getting on well. We gained a valuable insight into the deep history of South Africa, taking part in the Fugitives Drift Trail and learning about the Zulu War. En route from one campsite to the next, we enjoyed races, rapids jousting tournaments and got to take part in fly fishing, before undertaking our worthwhile community project task.
We went to a local primary school and were split into two teams; group one assisted with teaching in the classes, while group two prepared the tools and equipment that would be used to clear space for a vegetable tunnel.
Many children only receive a proper meal at school and so the construction of the tunnel is crucial to helping them stay fit and healthy. The heat and hard work proved exhausting, but we removed several enormous tree roots that stood in our way.
The children were great and taught us some traditional songs, which we all, despite our singing voices, joined in to sing. We were given classes of about twenty 10-13 year-olds.
The differences between our education system and the South African one was very interesting to observe and the children were very keen, singing and dancing to their hearts’ content. They were truly happy to be at school. We got to experience real cultural differences, allowing us to see first-hand the full daily routines and chores of our hosts. We helped the children with their homework and when they had finished we played games with the whole family and gave them a bag of essentials such as coffee, sugar, oil and onions as a parting thank you gift.
I got to fully immerse myself in the culture and had such an amazing time! Visiting Umkhumbi was certainly a highlight. I got to see three wild lions and they were all awake as well as a mother white rhino and calf. I also got rather close to some other animals! As part of the bush experience, I got to take an hour of stag duty (or night watch) in order to guard and protect other members of the team.
It was one the best experiences of my life so far and provided me with so many memories. It was such a privilege to be selected, to go and meet so many wonderful people. To experience a different culture was truly amazing and to have helped make a huge difference to the lives of the children by completing a simple but arduous task was humbling. I learnt so much from the trip, about life, beliefs, cultures and history and I gained eight incredible friends; friends who share this moving experience.
For more information please visit the Squadron website