Drawing on African influences in class

St Mary's Catholic College gap-lain Neal Gilbride working in Sierra Leone
St Mary's Catholic College gap-lain Neal Gilbride working in Sierra Leone
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It began in Africa for Neal Gilbride.

The St Mary’s Catholic College staff member is using lessons learned while working in Sierra Leone to help his work at the Blackpool high school.

The 21-year-old, from London, is working and living in the resort as part of CAFOD’s Step Into The Gap programme at the Catholic school, taking lessons and assemblies in school.

He is now drawing on a month-long trip to the East African country, where he visited community projects funded by CAFOD, the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales.

Neal said: “My month in Sierra Leone was eye-opening and truly inspiring

“I am now able to keep these stories, photographs and memories for life, but also to share and educate people.

“I work as a chaplain in the school, giving assemblies and lessons in the school.”

His work in the school for one year, known as a ‘gaplain’, gives Neal opportunity to work in a school and plan lessons, while the school benefits from his experience and guidance in the chapel.

He added: “The children are really excited about the opportunities available to them. I talk to them about how they can fund raise for CAFOD, issues around the world and taking gap years.”

Sierra Leone was torn by civil war from 1991 to 2002. CAFOD has been working in the country for decades, offering projects to give people skills, resources and opportunities to provide for themselves.

The ‘gaplain’ visited some of these communities to see projects in action and how money raised in the UK benefits people, in order to now influence others to raise funds for the charity.

Neal now works in RE and geography classes, as well as running music groups at the schools on St Walburga’s Road, Blackpool. He also works with the high school’s partner primary schools, Christ the King on Grange Park, St Kentigern’s in Blackpool and St Cuthbert’s in South Shore.