A NEW group of students are continuing their academy’s association with a South African community by volunteering to work with AIDS orphans in a local school.

The group of six from Bede Academy, accompanied by vice principal Andrew Middleton, will spend two weeks at Nokuphila School, in the township of Tembisa, near Johannesburg.

Drawing on their talents developed at the academy in Blyth, the students will teach music, games and art to children orphaned by the disease. It is estimated that 3.8 million children in South Africa have lost both parents to HIV/AIDS.

The Bede Academy students will join others from Emmanuel Schools Foundation schools – The King’s Academy, in Middlesbrough, Trinity Academy, near Doncaster, and Emmanuel College, Gateshead – in a group expedition that leaves on July 1.

The students had to apply for a place, stating what qualities they felt they could bring to the work and what they hoped to learn from the experience.

Musician Christie Wilce, 18, said: “All through school the only trip I ever wanted to go on was this one. I’m expecting it to be life-changing and really rewarding but it will be a mix of emotions I’m sure.”

Jamie Watson, 17, who plays football for the academy and Blyth Spartans, is hoping to share some of his sporting skills with the children, whose education is provided by the charity Love Trust.

Louis French, 17, said: “I think it will be quite difficult because of they life they’ve had, but it will be good to try and help.”

Josh Aisbitt, 16, added: “It’s a chance to give something back to the school and to help other people. The conditions and their quality of life compared with ours might be quite a shock but it’s important that we do what we can.”

As well as helping in the classroom and on the sports field, the students may also get involved in some construction work.

Dr Middleton said: “The group were selected for their aspirations to work in the field of care or to serve  the community, for their spirit of getting involved and for their commitment. It will be an incredible experience for them and, as well as providing an opportunity to serve, will also teach them a lot about themselves.”

The students have to raise £1,000 each for the expedition and have already taken part in a gym-based sponsored bike ride and car washes, and have organised a Nokuphila fundraising concert at the academy.

Younger children at Bede South have also got involved by taking part in a sponsored readathon to raise money for the South African school.