Extra-curricular and enrichment activities that broaden students’ experiences are strongly encouraged at Alton College and this year has seen the launch of the Alton College Experience (ACE).
It’s a programme specially designed to provide students with the opportunity to enhance their skills and personal qualities to give them an edge when applying for university or employment in the United Kingdom (UK).
The new college day and flexible timetable allows all students to work on their ACE skills alongside their A-Level, BTEC/Cambridge Technical, and GCSE courses.
Meet Alton College Experience Volunteer
Alton College Experience volunteer Scarlett Aylen (pictured), a second-year student who previously attended Alton Convent School, recently completed a human rights placement in Ghana as part of Projects Abroad.
She said: “Projects Abroad is an organization where individuals can volunteer in many countries on an incredible selection of volunteering trips. I went to Ghana on a human rights volunteering project for two weeks. The aim of the project was to help teach children and adults their basic human rights, something we take for granted in the UK, but which is vital to developing countries such as Ghana.
“The children did not realize that they were entitled to an education, let alone that physical abuse was illegal.
“I also went to help at orphanages, centers for rescued young slaves, youth church groups (Ghana is very religious) and schools.
“As well as the volunteering, getting to see the country and meet the people who live there was incredible.
Impact of Alton College Experience on Scarlett Aylen
“The mall in the city was like stepping home again, it was so westernized, yet you looked across the street and saw slums.”
Scarlett said she had gained a lot from the experience, adding: “I’ve met the most inspirational people and made lifelong friends. I’ve learned there is so much work to do in countries like Ghana. They have 3G data in the city and many people had smartphones, but they can’t afford to provide clean water or sewer covers to stop people dying of diseases.
“We spent two hours with a corporate lawyer who admitted that there aren’t really any lawyers helping with human rights issues, apart from foreign organizations and people like me, because there was no money involved and the worst issues were in remote areas where nobody wants to live.
“There is an incredible lack of education, evident everywhere. From parents asking how else they’re supposed to punish their child without hurting them, to a school teacher shouting at us, calling us sinners because our country has advanced in social acceptance in terms of sexuality and a lot of people are not religious. In Ghana, people are still stoned for being gay.
“Abuse is a big problem. I heard stories of children who were beaten by their teachers and families, banned from school for asking the teacher for permission to drink water or have a snack. I met children who were sold (for the equivalent of £2) or given away by their parents as slaves, orphans whose parents abandoned them or died from hunger and disease – all too common wherever I went.
“Yet every single place I went to help, every child was smiling. I walked through the slums, people getting on with their day to day lives, children were playing happily.
“When I went to the medical center, I had a long conversation with the man who was accompanying me. He made me feel incredibly fortunate. He said he always watches the news and knows exactly what he is missing in the other parts of the world.
“I learned that what I was seeing in Ghana was not as bad as other places in Africa, such as Somalia.
“His trip to the hospital cost £120 – the equivalent of a month’s income for him. I felt awful, and it really made me think about the value of money. He explained he wants his child to go to a better school than he can afford at the moment – the best ones cost $400 a term, which is most of his income.”
With A-Levels coming up, Scarlett has turned her hand to collecting clothes, shoes, stationery and school textbooks to send to the places she visited in Ghana.
She is also keen to raise enough money so that she can go back to help build a new classroom for the school, and has been encouraging her friends to volunteer this summer.
In the meantime, she has applied to study law at university. She is
“extremely interested in human rights, especially regarding unfair representation in the justice system”.
She said: “There are not really words to describe what I saw in Ghana.
“I could never tell anybody that my trip was amazing because what I saw was far from that, but I would certainly describe it as a necessary trip to make and definitely a life-changing experience.”
Source: Farnham Herald/Alton Herald