Thursday, 07 November 2013 09:27


Primary pupils test out their parachute designs Primary pupils test out their parachute designs

After a successful visit in October 2012, British-based charity the Pilgrim Bandits returned to ASPIRE last month for two unique projects. A story about their visit is currently featured in the Paphos Post. Here it is in full...

Peyia-based pupils have been left with lasting memories after a hero soldier joined them for a science project.

Primary students at ASPIRE, Centre of Excellence teamed up with Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson MBE, 28, last month to design and create their own mini parachutes.

Ben lost both his legs, was left brain damaged and broke his back, hips and ribs when an anti-tank mine exploded in 2006. The paratrooper, from Doncaster, England, was flown home to die but exceeded doctors’ expectations and survived.

Ben, dubbed the most severely injured serviceman ever to survive Afghanistan, made the visit along with other members of the Pilgrim Bandits ...

The British-based charity was set up by a small group of Special Forces veterans in 2007 to help and inspire wounded soldiers to live life to the full.

During the day, which took place on 10th October, Bandits and pupils worked in teams to create their parachutes. Their creations were then put to the test by being released from a height with an egg attached to them. Two out of four proved to be egg-cellent and survived the flight.

Sharon Hadjiyiakoumi, Principal of ASPIRE, said: “We were delighted to welcome the Pilgrim Bandits to ASPIRE.

“The day was an opportunity to explore areas of science in a fun and practical way and, with the help of Ben and the Bandits, to break any misconceptions about disabilities.”

The Pilgrim Bandits also worked with ASPIRE’s secondary children on a separate Design and Technology project. Pupils were tasked with adapting real-life building plans to allow for disabled access.

The guests were on hand to answer any questions, offer advice, and share their experiences of how things can be designed to fit everyone’s needs.

Amongst the speakers was former Royal Marine Steve Thomas, 41. Steve was on the brink of death when he was found with head injuries in the middle of a road in Thailand in 2011. Doctors warned his family that if he ever recovered he would never walk or talk again.

But, like Ben, Steve made a remarkable recovery. He cannot remember anything about his accident, but is able to talk and walk with the aid of a stick.

Yola Craig, 46, from Konia, is the Cyprus representative for the Pilgrim Bandits.

She said: “The Pilgrim Bandits love the spirit and way of life in Cyprus and are given a warm welcome wherever they go.

“It was certainly a warm welcome at ASPIRE, and the visit was well-loved by everyone. They love the children and were talking about them all day.

“The Pilgrim Bandits will be returning to the island next year. It’s in early planning stages at the moment, but we have something big planned.

“We’re also recruiting for charity parachute jumps, which will take place monthly during next year’s jump season.”