October 2014: European camp unites students

A WEEK in a foreign country with people you don’t know with no phone or computer – that was the challenge for six Haslingden High School students recently.

The Bocholt Camp was arranged by Rossendale’s twin German town and it united the town’s many other twins and sister cities including Bocholt in Belgium, Aurillac in France and Akmenė, in Lithuania. Students from Holland were also present.

When Tiegan Gamble, 15, Hannah Fletcher, 17, Georgia Whitworth, 16, Heather Chapleo, 17, Mollie Haynes, 15 and Rhiannon Davies-Bull, 15, arrived at the conference centre in Bocholt they were allocated a room mate from Germany, Lithuania or France.

Mollie said: “The first night it was really scary because we didn’t know anyone and we did not know how much our room mate understood.”

Language barriers aside, the groups leant to mix and mingle as they took part in a series of activities and trips including a zoo visit, swimming in an open air pool and dining on Belgian waffles.

During a high ropes course Rhiannon had to be rescued when she got stuck, as did French teacher Colin Povey.

Tiegan said: “It was hard at first when we didn’t know anyone but we got used to it. Each night we had to evaluate the day and the English students all wrote down what our team had done.”

Languages teacher Ros McDonald, who has now joined the Friends of Bocholt along with Mr Povey, said: “The trip was highly subsidised by the European Union, the last Mayor of Rossendale Councillor Amanda Robertson and a generous grant from the Friends of Bocholt.”

For Mollie there was also a special connection with Bocholt as her great-grandparents Stanley and Jessie Heyworth were the last Mayor and Mayoress of Bacup in 1973 and they were sent a medal from Bocholt commemorating the city’s 750th birthday.

Mollie said: “I took a copy of my great-grandparents’ photographs and the medal and showed it to the Mayor of Bocholt and had my photograph taken with him.”

At a civic presentation evening about the trip at Haslingden High School, Mollie had the chance to meet Rossendale’s current Mayor Councillor Tom Aldred and she explained her twin-town connection to him.

She said: “When I met the Mayor he was wearing the same chain that my great-grandad had worn and on the back of one of the medallions was his name.

“It is such a coincidence that I too have gone on to represent my family in Bocholt.”

Now Mrs McDonald is compiling a bid to the European Union to hold a similar camp called the Phoenix Project based in the Halls of Residence at Salford University for English, German and Lithuanian students.

The camp attendees will compile a website about regeneration projects that have benefited from European money in the North of England.

The group made friends with three of the Dutch students and this month they are coming over for a visit and will be spending time in school.

Ironically the group, who met on a week when they could not use mobile phones or computers, are keeping in touch via Whatsapp and Facebook.