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World Challenge 2012

The World Challenge Charity Expedition of 2012 to Thailand and Laos has been one of the most amazing events in my life. After the hard work of all the fundraising, I had high expectations of the scenery, the people, the food and the charity project itself.These were all met and undoubtedly surpassed.

The scenery was spectacular, the people kind and generous, the food.....different, interesting, challenging at times; the project gave me the opportunity to work with the local community and feel that I had done something worthwhile to help their day to day lives. (We helped lay pipes to supply the village with fresh water).

I worked in a team; trekked through red mud, in monsoon conditions; slept in a hammock; ate crickets and flying squirrel; booked accommodation and planned a daily budget; trekked with elephants and white water rafted; dug trenches and played with children who didn't understand any English - but it didn't matter; lived and worked with the village community sharing food and festival days and I loved every minute of it.

Would I do it again?........ Absolutely!! I am a World Challenger!!

Sam Hawkesford

Year 13



It's difficult to sum up such a life-changing and character-building experience as World Challenge in just a few short paragraphs. A trip that was eighteen months in the planning and one amazing month in the making leaves so many memories and so many stories that it's hard to know where to begin.

This summer, our World Challenge team of thirteen intrepid sixth-formers spent an entire month in South East Asia experiencing, for the first time, an environment so very different to what they are used to at home. The adventure was split between Thailand and Laos, with different 'phases' of the expedition being devoted to different themes such as 'jungle trekking' or 'village project work' and of course, some much needed rest and relaxation at the end!

The journey began and ended in Bangkok, a city full of contrasts. Where ancient Buddhist temples sit next to gleaming shopping-malls and the streets lined with food-carts compete with some of Asia's best restaurants for your hard-earned Baht! From the moment the team set foot off the plane they were dealing with new challenges at every turn - where do we find a bed for the night? Where do we go to eat? Have we got enough money and can anyone speak any Thai?!

The challengers were a credit to themselves however and soon learned the survival techniques! Soon, we were on the road (and train and boat) headed north for Laos and our very first jungle trek! The challengers must have thought they were on an SAS survival course as they navigated their way though some dense jungle and stunning mountain scenery for three days; sleeping in bamboo villages along the way that had barely changed in the last two hundred years. Needless to say they were soaked, muddy and tired but having some of the best fun of their lives along the way. Even the discovery of the odd leech getting it's meal from an arm here or a leg there didn't dampen the spirits.

From here the team moved on to a small, impoverished Laotian village where they spent the next five days living with the local community (in the village hall no less!) helping to dig in a vital new water system and generally immersing themselves in the rural Asian way-of-life. When not digging the team could be found teaching the local children at the small village school or playing countless games with them in the streets. They even went fishing for their own lunch! This phase is often the most rewarding and humbling part of the trip and an invaluable insight in to how communities far less well off than our own survive and exist with seemingly so little. The last night of the project involved the village elders blessing all of our challengers in a very moving and memorable ceremony, followed by much singing and dancing by the entire village...and our challengers! This was a night to live long in the memory.

From here we spent two relaxing and calm days sailing through some breathtaking scenery along the Mekong river and crossed back in to Thailand for another jungle trek. Here the team learned the art of cooking in the open, Thai style and spent their nights in hammocks in the great outdoors of the forest. Thrown in for good measure was also a white-water rafting day for the thrill-seekers, some bamboo-rafting along the river and finally finishing with a trek though the forest on the backs of elephants!

From here, it was back to Bangkok for some well earned rest and relaxation, for a flushing toilet, soft bed and a warm shower! Never before had such simple everyday things seemed so luxurious!

An expedition like this provides a learning experience that not even the greatest teacher in the greatest classroom could ever deliver. At every turn, and at every step of the way there are new challenges, new experiences and incredible memories. The journey actually started over eighteen months ago, with the countless hours of fund-raising and hard work that makes an expedition like this happen. But I think every single challenger would agree with me that every minute, every second was totally worth it.

World Challenge 2012 will be remembered by thirteen of our students for the rest of their lives. They have come back from Asia having discovered many things about a far-flung beautiful part of the Earth, but they will have discovered many more things about themselves. As our expedition leader put it 'the world is one hell of a classroom'. I think it's a classroom many of these guys will want to revisit again and again.....

A MASSIVE well done to Nick Farrugia, Jake Field, Hannah Fitzgerald, Kieran Haines, Sam Hawkesford, Emily Healey, Jack Jinks, Tarik Karavelioglu, Curtis Lisle, Christine Lyttle, George McGovern, Tshwarelo Nhlapo and Kyle Thornton.

Mr Robinson
Teacher of Science

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