A GROUP of young people from Arrochar have returned from a volunteering mission in South Africa.

Eight people aged between 16 and 19 went to Gordon’s Bay near Cape Town to help with construction work and education.

The first week of the ‘Alba II Africa’ trip saw the group organise a sports week teaching the children how to play rounders, football and other games.

They also helped serve the children hot lunches because for many of the youngsters it would be their only opportunity to receive a hot lunch.

During the second week of the programme, the volunteers got their hands dirty working on the reading room and sick bay for the children.

They were involved in sanding the doors, filling cracks in the walls to make sure the children didn’t hurt themselves and creating colourful murals on the walls.

Ryan Murray, a member of the Arrochar YOUTH group, helped paint the murals in the sick bay and explained that he painted a fish holding a sign saying ‘I hope you get better soon and keep on swimming’ to cheer the children up.

The 19-year-old told the Advertiser: “Just seeing these kids changing from day one to day four was crazy.

“It’s something I would do again. I’m trying to persuade my friends to come next time.”

Another volunteer, Sophie Craig, 16, said she found the whole experience “life changing”.

“I think I take way too much for granted, so when I came home I was much more appreciative of what I have,” she explained.

“One day I was playing with a girl and the next day she ran up to me and had painted one of her nails the same colour as mine and she said ‘look teacher, we’re matching’ and it was so lovely.

“I thought it was amazing. It was really humbling to see people who are less fortunate than you, but they are so happy and appreciative.”

The group were accompanied by Jean Cairns, one of the youth workers at the project. She said: “It was wonderful. It’s absolutely wonderful what we have achieved as a youth group.

“They are a credit to their school, themselves and the local community.

“We are massively proud of them, they achieved all the goals I had in my head.”

Arrochar YOUTH (Youth Organisation Understanding Teen Health) is a joint venture by NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute’s health and social care partnership.

Angela and Jean Cairns, two practice nurses from the Arrochar GP surgery, facilitate the project which is open to young people aged 13-19.

It offers health promotion and education workshops and projects aimed at increasing the health and wellbeing of the young people in the area.

The trip was made possible by a generous donation from the Hannah Stirling Loch Lomond Charitable Trust, and the group raised the rest of the money through a quiz night, 70s night, coffee morning and Cobbler climb.