RView: Students make life-changing journey to Africa


A team that included high school students recently travelled to Africa.

Armin Saba photo



On a cool July 25 evening, eight Richmond youth embarked on a life-altering experience.



Their destination: Refilwe Orphanage, Johannesburg, South Africa.



The teens who journeyed to Africa were able to partake in numerous forms of humanitarian work, including working with the orphans housed in Refilwe, visiting several daycares, making renovations, and helping with construction.



“I feel extremely blessed to have had the chance to travel halfway around the world and make a difference in the lives of others,” said Brandon Low, one of the high school students on the team. “I was shocked to see how happy the people were in Africa with what little they had. People living with close to nothing still lived every day with sheer happiness.”



The team of five Hugh Boyd Secondary students, three Hugh Boyd graduates, two teachers, four Richmond firefighters and two Rotarians from the Richmond Sunset Rotary Club was the largest so far to travel to Africa on Hugh Boyd’s biennial trip.



The numbers proved advantageous when the team took on arduous tasks like building drainage systems for houses or single-handedly renovating Hlakanang preschool.



“It was shocking, it opened my eyes,” said student Liam Gillanders. “I couldn’t believe that every day, 20 children went to preschool in that tiny shack.”



The team spent several days renovating the preschool, adding linoleum flooring, expanding the kitchen, adding another room to the facility, creating a patio and awnings, and fixing the roof. When not spending their day remaking preschools or conjuring up drainage systems, the heartfelt humanitarians used their time to play hockey and sing songs with the kids at Refilwe and several other daycares they were able to visit.



“The children gave us unconditional love and shared their culture with us,” said Melissa Chao, a Grade 11 student on the team. “I was so humbled by the experience.”



The students returned Aug. 20 with fond memories, new friends, and a changed perspective of their world.



Incredibly impacted by her time in Africa, Chao shared that she hopes to some day return to Refilwe.



Low agreed: “(Our) time in Africa was life-changing.”



— Anushka Kurian, Youth Reporter