"It really changed me and made a difference", says Charlotte, a student from Southampton involved with the Sholing Campus Philippines Project.
Students from Grove Park Business and Enterprise College and Sholing Technology College have spent two weeks in the Philippines developing a school to help some of the poorest people in the country.
The twenty eight students build an adventure playground for the children at the school. In an area known as “Smokey Mountain
Smokey mountain is a dump site on Luzon island in the Philippines where thousands of people not only live but actually earn their living from scavaging through the garbage and waste.
Smokey mountain is now disused and still has its inhabitants living there. The school is being constructed nearby out of seventy eight old shipping containers which will make it the largest structure of its kind in the world.
The students undertook the project via the “Hedge End” based charity which works to improve the lives of people living in squatter camps around this dump site.
Group leader Dave Berry said: "It was an amazing trip. We exceeded our expectations by a million miles.
"The students built a state-of-the art playground for the school, painted a fantastic 70 foot mural, built a house on the dumpsite and got involved in the feeding programme for malnourished children on the dumpsite and that was really quite emotional for everyone."
The students had also raised £4,000 to take Filipino pupils on their first ‘away day’.
Charlotte, 14, in Year 10 at Sholing Technology College said: "The kids had never been out like that before, it was a great day and a really nice to see the kids enjoying themselves."
Charlie, 19, said: "Working on the house was quite physical, but you get used to the heat and the humidity and you just get on with it. These people never complain and they always wear smiles so you just knuckle down. You just appreciate so much when you get home – your house, and the basics like electricity."
For Charlotte and the rest of the group it was a rewarding and life changing experience.
She explained: "It really changed me and made a difference.
"I’ve been trying to explain to my friends, its hard to get across what we saw. It’s so different to showing from someone a picture to actually being there."
This was a second trip from students from Southampton originally they had come in 2008 to help with the project as a one off but the original project has been so successful and rewarding the students wanted to make another trip.
To do it the 28 students spent a whole year raising their own funds for the trip to the Philippines as well as sourcing many things that are needed by donations such as children’s clothing, toys, tools, playground equipment and even furniture for the new school.
They carried out a 50km sponsored walk through the New Forest in june of 2009 and held a charity fund raiser at the Rose bowl.
The Junior school’s deputy head Richard Hutchinson also raised £1,000 by having his head shaved in front of the entire school.
Three containers left Southampton donated by APL in the last twelve months loaded by the students and staff. Although some of the donations were diverted after Typhoon Ketsana hit Manila towards the end of September 2009
Dave Berry paid tribute to the students on their return to the UK.
He said: "They were exceptional – they did their colleges, schools, parents and themselves justice – they were absolutely fantastic and we look forward to doing it again."
A solid piece of selfless help to people outside of their own country. Not only offers rewards you will remember for a lifetime but also the fact you have helped to change lives. It’s a pity more of this type of work isn’t on going as without a doubt things like this go a long way in some of the poorest communities on the planet.