IT was a case of home from home for these lucky teenagers who visited Hartlepool’s twin town.
The group of 17 young people, who attend the senior youth club at The Annexe, in Wharton Terrace, spent five days in Huckelhoven, in Germany.
The teens even posed near this iconic street sign in Hartlepooler Platz in the partner town.
The group are predominantly from the Dyke House area of town, which has been traditionally known as one of the town’s most disadvantaged areas and for some it was their first time abroad.
Teresa Driver, youth and community co-ordinator at The Annexe, described the once-in-a-lifetime experience as: “Ordinary kids that had the chance to do something extra-ordinary.”
On the first day of the trip, the group visited a mining museum in Huckelhoven and even got to try out the equipment.
“It gave a good link with coal mining in our area,” said Teresa.
“They learned how different Governments handled the closure of the Huckelhoven mines – they closed them over seven years, so people had the chance to reskill and find other work.”
The teens also visited Leonardo da Vinci School, in Hückelhoven, and had an impromptu game of football against its students, ending in a diplomatic 3-3 draw.
They also led lessons and gave German pupils a chance to practise their English.
The group also met the Mayor of Huckelhoven, Berndt Jansen, and took part in a question and answer session with him.
On the third day, they travelled to Cologne, taking a train and bus on the one-and-a-half hour journey, and visited the cathedral and toured the city.
The next day they took part in activities with a local sports club, including sub-aqua diving and a climbing wall.
Teresa said: “I think the experience of being in a foreign country, in its own right, was different for them.
“And generally meeting some genuinely nice German people was fantastic for all of us.
“This trip will change their lives – they will look back on it as one of the highlights of growing up.
“They were an absolute credit to the town.”
The group slept in a primary school sports hall and Teresa said one of the neighbours even visited to say she had been worried there may be trouble when she heard English people were staying.
But the neighbour added that she had been amazed that the group were so well-behaved.
The group’s new German friends say they now want to visit Hartlepool and Annexe staff will help support the plans.
The trip was two years in the making, after the teens saved up and held charity events to raise funds.
They were boosted by a donation of around £5,000 from Hartlepool ceremonial mayor, Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher.
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