September 8th 2017

America trip in memory of Jo Cox proves inspirational for Long Eaton Air Cadet

Cadet Sergeant James Bland

Cadet Sergeant James Bland

An Air Cadet says he had an ‘inspirational’ time as a youth ambassador in America gaining information on his proposed community project for Long Eaton.

Cadet Sergeant James Bland, a member of 2195 (Long Eaton) Squadron of the RAF Air Cadets, was one of just 20 under 23s selected from thousands of applicants for the first ever Jo Cox Memorial Exchange Programme being organised by the United States Embassy in the United Kingdom.

The 17-year-old was chosen as he’s about to launch a project through his Air Cadet squadron to provide easier access to sports equipment for organisations in the town to use. It’s a scheme that the organisers of the exchange felt reflected their aims of promoting social cohesion, hope and inclusion in a local community.

Over 14 days in America visiting Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York he spoke to politicians, leading businessmen and activists about those topics.

Flight Sergeant Lawrence Buckingham congratulates Cadet Sergeant James Bland

Flight Lieutenant Lawrence Buckingham congratulates Cadet Sergeant James Bland

James said: “The trip was brilliant, very eye-opening and inspiring.

“The whole experience was very surreal but enormously exciting. Flying to a new country is so hard to describe, I couldn’t wait to see a new culture and explore.

“Being an ambassador for the UK in the inaugural Jo Cox Memorial Exchange Programme was very nerve-racking, however, I was very grateful for being given the privilege.

“Speaking to those we met during the visit was an eye opener as we heard from people from all different backgrounds about the experiences and challenges they are facing with regards social inclusion to that were similar, but different to what we’d faced in the UK.

“Speaking to members of organisations such as Anti-Defamation League, Facing History and the United Nations at its New York headquarters was also very inspiring.

“Throughout the exchange everyone in our group supported each other and learned about how our experiences have motivated us to make change in our community.”

There was also a fun-side to the trip where the group were able to explore the outdoors.

James explained: “The highlight of my trip was visiting North Bay. We spent two-days at an adventure park where we did high rope courses, zip lines, log swing, canoeing, camp fire and class sessions. It was very exciting and fun.”

James, who is currently studying A-Levels at Nottingham College, has been an Air Cadet for four-years and hopes to become a pilot with the Royal Air Force when he’s older. He was the only Air Cadet selected for the Exchange.

His project to provide sports equipment such as football goals, netball, hurdles, and other athletics equipment for community groups in Long Eaton is set to launch in October.

James said: “I will be taking everything I’ve learned on the trip and putting it into my project.

“That includes how to tackle prejudice and discrimination and promote social cohesion as well. I’ve also learned the importance of organisational skills to help make it sustainable and achievable as well as debating skills and how to facilitate dialogue.”

“The trip was brilliant, very eye-opening and inspiring."