TRANENT Colts FC have returned to the UK following a week-long “fantastic” trip to Rwanda.

Six members of the club and two of their daughters visited the country on a follow-up visit to their last trip in 2016.

Phil Purves, chairperson and coach; Mike Dick, secretary and coach; Kevin Bathgate, coach co-ordinator and coach; Alan Richardson, executive committee member; Alan White; Dylan White; assistant coach Zoe Purves; and assistant coach Rebecca Dick were those from Tranent Colts who went on the trip.

The trip was organised by Alan ‘Chalky’ White, who helps coach his son Dylan’s team at Tranent Colts and works as head of community development at Hearts Football Club; Mark Fleming, SFA sports chaplain and director of Positive Mental Health Scotland; and Phil Purves.

During their trip to East Africa, which took place from February 2 to February 8, they were joined by members of five other football teams: Murieston, Bonnyrigg, Penicuik, Broxburn and Ormiston Football Development.

During their time in Rwanda, the Colts played football and visited a school for disabled children, which they had visited in 2016 and which Phil described as “a totally different experience”.

He added: “Probably about 70 per cent have Down’s syndrome within the school. They have different facilities from us.”

The group also visited some boys who were living on the streets in 2016; thanks to a local street kids project, they now live in sheltered accommodation.

Phil said of the trip: “It was fantastic, a real experience. It’s a different lifestyle over there, you have to be there to really experience it.

“My daughter talks about her trip every single day, it’s just so different.

“It was great having been there before, as we kind of knew what to expect, but it was also great to see all the guys that were there for the first time, their reactions and the way they adjusted to the Rwandan lifestyles.

“Weather was unexpectedly unsettled, which created its own difficulties, as with so much water falling it washed away roads, so this made it more difficult for us to access places.

“How we managed to get to certain areas some days amazed us.

“I hope it has opened up the eyes and hearts of the rest of our group. It certainly has changed me, and now when people complain or moan about trivial things I just revert back to the trip and tell them they don’t know how well off they really are.”

Alan White said: “It was fantastic. There were no egos on the trip, everyone wanted to learn and everyone had a great time.

“How the Rwandan people were working together after the genocide was inspirational and the guys took all of what they learned back to Scotland, and they are going to use it in their clubs.”

Kevin, who was on his first trip and now sponsors one of the street boys, said: “I didn’t know what to expect. It was a bit of an eye-opener. I heard the stories from the other guys but it’s different seeing it for yourself.

“The school for the disabled brought tears to your eyes, just from the pure joy on their faces.

“I’m taking a lot away from it and looking at things differently. ”

The group, alongside Jack Beesley, SFA football development officer, coached several people while they were in the African country.

Alan added: “They are desperate for any kind of education they can get; when you offer them something, they grab it with both hands.

“We had to talk through an interpreter most of the time.”

People came from as far as Kenya, Congo and Uganda for a coaching class, with Alan and Jack expecting only 30 people to turn up.

The group brought a lot of donations with them, which they handed out to local people.

The donations included old football kit, books, pens and pencils. East Lothian Council also donated items.

Phil said: “One wee girl took a frisbee and put her food on it.

“We also got a lot of people pleading with us to give them stuff.”

Each of the 17 people in the group had a 40-kilogram baggage allowance, plus an extra 150 kilograms given to them by Turkish Airlines.

Phil said that on his journey back from Rwanda, he returned with just 6.2 kilograms of hand luggage, leaving all of the donations and suitcases behind.

The trip members had fundraised to pay for it, with some money also coming in through sponsorships.

Phil added that he now hoped a different Scottish club could return to Rwanda every year.