Hull teenagers visit Burkina Faso to coach youngsters in football
THEY spent three months travelling round a country hundreds of miles from home, visiting some of the poorest areas.
While most teenagers might choose to let loose in Ibiza or go backpacking around Asia, Matthew Callaghan and Sam Wilson decided to help raise awareness of HIV and Aids in west Africa.
The two 19-year-olds from Hull spent three months volunteering in Burkina Faso.
The pair are both former football coaches and have worked for the Hull City Tiger's Trust.
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But their skills and dedication were put to the test when they visited Africa.
They were volunteering in a country where only pupils who can afford it go to school and many students are in their early 20s.
Burkina Faso is also a country where residents know little about the dangers of unprotected sex and the spread of disease.
"No one really knew anything about contraception," said Matthew, speaking to the Mail after the pair returned to the UK.
Samuel said: "Most information they have been given is wrong.
"Some of the information was misleading or lost in translation."
The pair were part of a 13-strong team who travelled out with the York-based charity International Service as part of the government-funded International Citizen Service (ICS) scheme for young people aged 18 to 25.
Matthew said: "The thing that interested me most was the opportunity to go out and join in with a completely different culture and see how they live.
"I think three months was just enough though.
"I'd definitely consider it again."
The two men said they did not know what to expect when they first set out on their adventure.
Sam said: "I was really excited to be going, but was sad to be leaving family and friends.
"Three months is a long time."
The pair arrived in Burkina Faso's capital city of Ouagadougou and spent the first part of their placement helping and planning team work.
But like most well-laid plans, not everything went as they expected it to.
Matthew said: "When we were in England, we were told 90 per cent would be practical and 10 per cent 'officey', but it was more like the other way round.
"But there was a lady there who helped get the ball rolling a bit more.
"The first school I went to there were 80 children, four footballs and we used plates as cones.
"We really struggled to get resources."
Samuel's situation was very similar.
"The first time I held a football session, there were 40 kids, one football and no translator – so it was a lot of gesturing," he said.
A typical morning would involve getting up early to be picked up in a taxi at 8am.
If the teenagers were holding a coaching session that day, they would collect equipment from their base before heading out to a school.
Samuel said: "Lessons were 9am to noon because it wasn't too hot then. After that we'd go back to the office for two hours and then go to a school from 4pm to 5pm, when it had cooled down again."
Office time would be spent organising future activities, but there were a lot of issues with raising funds to pay for things.
Matthew said: "We went into different schools where we were needed.
"The primary schools were aged from about five or six years old and the secondary schools had pupils who were anything from 16 or 18 to late 20s." Samuel said: "We'd see people who looked 30 who had a school satchel with them.
"We'd speak to fully grown adults who had only just finished school."
The two lived in the heart of the community and were fully immersed in local life.
But for safety reasons, they did have rules and regulations to follow.
Matthew said: "For the most part, we were in a house that had nine bedrooms and eight bathrooms.
"It was a really nice house, but the other houses around us didn't have electricity, so that was a bit weird.
"As a result, everyone thought we were really rich, which obviously we weren't.
"We also had a 9pm curfew."
Samuel said: "We were in an area where seeing a white person was very unusual, so when we walked down the street people would often point and say 'white person' to us.
"It did feel a bit intimidating, but the more westernised part of the capital city was 15 minutes away and was a lot more expensive."
Despite the challenges the trip presented, both Matthew and Samuel said they would be keen to do similar projects in future.
Samuel said: "I've been offered a six-month contract in the US doing coaching, but at the moment I can't afford to go."
Matthew said: "I would enjoy travelling somewhere different again, but for now I want to get settled and sorted at home."