SOUTHAMPTON’S top Catholic has jetted off to an African nation to mark 40 years of working with the local community.

Monsignor Vincent Harvey and 26 others from the Diocese of Portsmouth are in Cameroon for a ten-day trip to mark the 40th year of the link between Catholics in south Hampshire and the Archdiocese of Bamenda.

Bamenda is the capital of the English-speaking north-western region. The twinning link was signed in 1974 and has seen cash raised in Hampshire fund health clinics, churches and community halls. Springhill Catholic Primary School in South-ampton is twinned with the School of Our Lady of Ass-umption in the town of Santa.

During the trip Monsignor Harvey and Hampshire’s top Catholic, the Bishop of Portsmouth Philip Egan, will look at some of the projects the link has funded.

A number of teenage volunteers have also gone out with them alongside other Hampshire clergymen.

Monsignor Harvey, the parish priest for St Joseph and St Edmunds’ churches in Southampton, last visited Cameroon in 2008. Speaking before he set off Monsignor Harvey said: “We will also be taking out dozens of pencils, tennis balls and other items and letters from the Hampshire schools twinned with schools in Cameroon.

“In June there will be a return visit, when some of those from Bamenda will visit Hampshire.”