Funds needed for helpful travel

02:04, Jan 10 2013
 Jemma Radcliffe
LAOS OR BUST:Waimea College students Jemma Radcliffe, left, and Michaela Keene are fundraising so they can do aid work at an orphanage in Laos this year. Photo: SARAH DUNN

Two Richmond girls are hoping to help out at an orphanage in Laos this year, but with about $20,000 to raise before they can make the trip in July, they are in need of a little assistance themselves.

Year 12 students Jemma Radcliffe and Michaela Keene are two of 20 Waimea College pupils set to travel to Thailand and Laos in July next year through British educational tour company World Challenge.

World Challenge focuses on encouraging personal growth, and offers a range of service projects to help student travellers connect with people from other cultures. After they fly into Thailand, Jemma and Michaela's group are going to be teaching English and building a playground at a Laos orphanage.

The pair were allowed to choose their aid project from a list of options offered by World Challenge. They will spend time in Bangkok and go hiking near Chiang Mai before spending the last ten days working at the orphanage.

They look forward to interacting with Laotian children and making a difference to their lives.

"We choose what we want to do and they pick whatever orphanage needs it most," said Michaela.


The girls had never heard of Laos before they started researching World Challenge destinations.

"We didn't know how to pronounce it [either]," said Jemma. "We spent a while calling it ‘Lao-Lao."

Jemma said she and Michaela were encouraged to go on the trip by a friend who described her work in Cambodia as "the funnest thing she'd ever done".

Jemma's mother Miranda said she knew fundraising was part of the learning experience, but watching the girls struggle to find money to keep up their scheduled payments was difficult. The pair needed to pay for the building materials they used on the playground as well as flights, accommodation and suitable gear to take with them, and they were also participating in a separate fundraising initiative to gather a group donation for the orphanage.

They had each chipped about $4000 off their total by the end of last year, but building on that success had proved difficult over the holiday period.

"We're at a complete standstill," said Miranda.

Michaela said the only thing that made her nervous about the trip was worrying she and Jemma might not find the money in time to take part. The girls made $700 by running sausage sizzles over Christmas, but their next big deadline for payment is looming in April.

"We'll enjoy it more knowing that we earned it," she said.