Raleigh International

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5905.jpgFormer Wallace High School pupil Steven Crowe has just returned from the adventure of a lifetime in Central America. Steven, (19), from Maghaberry, spent over six months away , working initially with Raleigh International and then enjoying a period of independent travel. He explained, “Following a week long induction period in Costa Rica, learning the basics of First Aid and Health and Safety training, I headed off to my first Raleigh International phase in El Porviner , Nicaragua.

This tiny village is situated a five hour walk away from the nearest town and is home to 40 people. The aim of our Raleigh project was to develop the villagers’ water provision. Initially the villagers were rather wary of us but we were soon made feel very welcome. Digging trenches in scorching heat was physically draining but seeing the positive impact which the provision of fresh water had on the village made it all worth while. I also had the opportunity to teach the villagers some English – albeit with a Northern Irish accent. I hope I can visit the villagers some time in the future.”

Steven then returned to Raleigh’s field base for three days, giving him the opportunity to re-gain email contact with friends and family before heading off on Phase Two of his Raleigh work. “Phase 2 was based at Curu Beach National Park, where I lived for three weeks in an A-frame ‘basha’ on the beach. I was working with marine biologists, mapping a new reef and helping with fish identification. I celebrated my 19th birthday by diving to a shipwreck and enjoying a game of underwater cards. That was certainly a birthday I’ll never forget.”

Following another brief return to Raleigh field base Steven then commenced the third and final section of his Raleigh adventure. He went on, “The fifteen day trek through Costa Rica was physically very tough .

Undoubtedly my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award has prepared me for it, but having to use a 45 year old map through very hilly terrain really called upon my ingenuity and resilience. The scenery was breath-taking and despite frequent pouring rain and even an attack by a massive swarm of bees, I still had a brilliant time. A highlight of this phase was visiting lots of rural communities and learning about their ways of life, especially about their religious festivals, as we visited one village during Semana Santa- Holy Week.”

At the end of his official Raleigh experience, Steven enjoyed a week’s relaxation on the beautiful Playa Hermosa , learning how to surf. He then headed off for a further three months of independent travel.

“Solo travel really was amazing. I met so many wonderful people from all walks of life .Coming back home has been a bit of a culture shock. I keep forgetting to let my parents know my plans – the total independence I enjoyed in Central America will however prepare me for life at university. I’m heading off to Queen Margaret College in Edinburgh next week to study Occupational Therapy.

I certainly hope to continue travelling both during and after my degree and I’d like to continue diving too. I also hope to study for a TEFL – being able to teach English in the developing world would be awesome. I’d really recommend a gap year to all students -be it before or after your degree.

My travels were made possible through very the very generous support of family ,friends and local businesses. The support of Lisburn Rotary Club was also very welcome. I was the first recipient of Wallace High’s Gillespie Gap Year bursary – this award really makes travel possible for school leavers.”

Last modified: December 15, 2019