After the arduous 12-hour journey to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, it’s nice to lie in bed. All the preparations and talks had finally come to an end, months of fundraising had stopped. We were finally there.
Every morning we woke up promptly at 08:00, thanks to the ever-persistent teachers. The first day we were straight back on the coach and we drove to windy caves, a fantastic cavern, which at first lives up to its name but calms down after a bit. As we walk deeper into the cave we see amazing natural rock formations. As soon as we get out and sit down arm wrestling starts, as happens when there’s a bunch of men around. We’re quickly back at the orphanage and have a delectable dinner and then it is soon back to sleep.
As the days go on we visit many places, from a beautiful waterfall, where we were luckily able to swim, to these delightful small islands in Croatia, where we ate fresh fish from the sea right next to us and again swimming.
Then on the Thursday we had rafting. The connotations are that this will be a hellish ride down a river, with the likelihood that we will fall out. It was the complete opposite. The Neretva is a cold, fast-flowing river that starts near the middle, going through Mostar and its mouth near Dubrovnik. The most stunning feature of the rafting trip was the nature that surrounded us. There was greenery and mountains all around that provided a constant dropped jaw.
The rafting itself was a mixture of relaxed rowing and not so relaxed rapids, although it was adrenaline-filled, the only way you would fall into the river is if you decided yourself to go in or if you were one unfortunate teacher, who was thrown in by your own students. After this draining experience, we had a lunch at home where the food never stopped appearing.
Every other day we had a break from the activities, where we went into Mostar city centre. One day, we went sightseeing, seeing the famous Old Bridge that was originally constructed in 1566 and then rebuilt in 2004 and buying souvenirs from this brilliant country. Other days we went to the cinema, which is by far better than any cinema in London, and to a water park where there was a lot of diving and fun.
The last Friday was spent at the orphanage cleaning up and getting ready for the big event… the talent show. There was a barbeque beforehand so everyone was happy even before the acts started, so when they did the happiness was multiplied. There were acts from the children ranging from belly dancing to singing, and then the acts from the visitors ranged from a human trumpet performance, singing and rapping.
After the talent show music was blasted till late and there was a makeshift disco going on. This was both a happy and a sombre affair, as we were celebrating our time there but also expressing our sadness that we would not see some of the children as they had not been selected to go for the first tour to the beach.
On Saturday morning there were more emotional farewells, and then unfortunately, we left.
The three days at the hostel can be summed up easily; swimming, sleeping, eating and sunbathing. This was a holiday for the children and we gladly participated. On the last day at the hostel, all the students and teachers went to a restaurant and had a delightful last supper. Awards were handed out to students who were impressive.
Then it was a true goodbye. Saying goodbye to all the children. It was a truly touching time. Tears everywhere.
Being from Mostar myself, it was a pleasant feeling to be back. Having passed the orphanage multiple times when I was younger and never really thinking of what life was like there and then to arrive there is a strange feeling. But having left I realised the importance of our trip to the orphanage. We had possibly made those children’s years and they had made ours. It was that sort of trip which touched all of us. It is truly an experience I will never forget.
About Year 12 trips to Bosnia
Each year students in Year 12 have the opportunity to visit an orphanage in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Bosnia trip is organised in partnership with The Heathland School in Hounslow and is run by the Our Kids Foundation, a charity that raises much needed funds for the orphanage. Students from both schools fundraise throughout the year and meet to organise the activities that will occur once in Bosnia.
Activities include sightseeing trips, whitewater rafting, boat trips, arts and crafts and a sports day – to name but a few.
While in Bosnia, students from Chelsea Academy and The Heathland School spend valuable and much needed time with children from the orphanage, many of whom see the trip as their only opportunity to socialise and have fun during the long and hot summer holidays. At the end of a week at the orphanage the students and children travel to the Croatian coast for a few days of sunshine, beach and watersports, as well as more opportunities to entertain the orphans and have fun.
The trip is an amazing experience for the orphanage children and the students from Chelsea Academy. Many lasting friendships are formed and students from previous trips have started to visit the orphanage once they leave school and go to university, thus ensuring that the trip has a lasting and extremely beneficial legacy.