A GEOGRAPHY teacher from Coleraine High School has conscripted the talents of 18 of her pupils to aid underprivileged children in the East African state of Malawi.
Ruth Clarke, daughter of the Rev David Clarke, Minister of Terrace Row Presbyterian Church, has undertaken to help her charges raise some of the £63,000 necessary to fund the trip.
And to that end, the school teacher and the kids have organised a number of fundraising events ranging from coffee mornings to a monthly, Saturday car wash.
The girls, most currently sitting A-levels, will fly to Mulanjemassis, Malawi, next July as part of a personal development project organised by Ruth through the charity, World Challenge.
Once in Africa, the girls will be expected to undertake community work which could include helping out in local classrooms and clinics, or assisting with village building projects.
And since ‘Miss Clarke’ is in charge of operating the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme at the top school, the girls will also be completing the expedition section of their Gold Award.
“This will take the form of a week long expedition into the Mulanjemassis Mountain Range,” explained Ruth. “It’s an area where a lot of people go and trek and World Challenge have organised similar trips to the area before.
“Week two of the trip will involve a visit to the neighbouring region of Zomba,” continued Ruth.
“We have been in touch with Coleraine Borough Council and Zomba Action Project who have a partnership arrangement with Zomba and have organised for the girls to meet up with our sister school out there called St. Mary’s.”
The third week of their visit to Malawi will involve direct work with underprivileged children.
“Not only did I want the girls to go somewhere really interesting for their Duke of Edinburgh Gold but I am also very interested in community development which we teach as part of the curriculum,” explained Ruth.
“It means the girls will spend a week involved with a local community in Malawi. They could be teaching, looking after orphans or even building school rooms,” she said.
The schoolgirls attending next year’s World Challenge trip are: Cora-Lee Johnston, Rebecca Duff, Eve Turkington, Caitlin Barry, Beth Montgomery, Christine Arthur, Victoria McCormick, Laureen Ferguson, Megan McCartney, Rachel Hamill, Shauna Cooper, Hannah Graham, Heather Spence, Francesca McLenaghan, Annie McAfee, Leanne Lyons, Kathryn Reid and Sophie McCloy.
Organisation of the trip will be the responsibility of international school expedition charity, World Challenge. The company provides educational expeditions to the developing world which “teach life skills and expand minds outside the classroom”. For over 20 years, the firm has organised bespoke student travel itineraries of 3-6 weeks duration which foster team spirit and leadership skills.
Monies raised by the girls will go towards funding the materials etc needed for the community phase of their expedition. The cost to each girl is in the region of £3,500 prompting the students to take on part-time jobs. However, Ruth has engaged the school’s help to raise £500 for each girl by holding fundraising events from now until Easter 2012.
“When we are away the girls will have total responsibility for their own expedition. There will be two teachers, myself and Laura Shingleton (biology), as well as the World Challenge leaders, who are there for safety, but the girls will be in charge,” revealed Ruth.
“This is their expedition and that’s why they are working so hard to raise the money they need to fund the trip. The whole ethos of the World Challenge adventure is that they work as a team AND individually to raise the money.
“It helps them develop their life skills and I have personally seen them grow over this last year. I am very proud of them, “ she added.
The first of the year long fundraising events to take place since returning to school in September, will take place on Saturday (24th) and will involve a hand “maid” car wash at the school.
Members of the public are invited to park their cars at Coleraine High before going shopping or meeting appointments and on their return they will find it has been hand washed and polished by the students.
The car wash service will run from 10am to 4pm from the Lodge Road entrance at a cost of £3 for a car and £4 for a four-by-four or larger vehicle.