A group of young Borderers are carrying out fundraising activities across the Borders to raise cash for a trip to Bolivia.
More than 20 youngsters will go on the trip next summer however, the team aged between 16 and 24 each need to raise a cash total of more than £2,000.
The visit will involve the venturers helping out and living in communities to experience different cultures.
The trip, organised by the Borders Exploration Group, was initially planned for Brazil, but following the outbreak of the Zika virus, organisers followed advice from health officials to move the location to somewhere above 2,200 feet. Bolivia was chosen to allow the expedition to remain in South America.
The group is made up of pupils from Peebles, Galashiels, Selkirk, Kelso and Eyemouth, and will include recent school leavers. The team will fly out to Bolivia on June 30, 2017, before returning on July 24.
David Hunter, chief leader Bolivia 2017, said: “The opportunity is to not only go out and visit another country, but to be part of its culture and community.
“What we do is we go out there and we have three different phases. There will be a community phase where we will identify communities that we can help where we might, for example, help to build a school. There will be a cultural phase where the venturers will learn about the country and then there will be an over-arching phase which is adventure. At the moment we are thinking this might be a trek through Bolivia, but we have not yet decided.
“Young Borderers, generally speaking, tend to have reasonably safe and comfortable lives, and so this way they get to experience how other people live and they will certainly find that out in Bolivia.
“We are still negotiating with which communities we will go to and we are looking into different project ideas at the moment but we hope to have come to a decision on that in January.
“With the political situation in Bolivia we really need to ensure that the project will be sustainable.”
Bolivia 2017 venturer Freya McIlwraith, who left Selkirk High School after her fifth year last summer, said: “Going on a trip like this has always been my dream. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to travel around the world and help the people there. I love to travel and I love to help people so this trip is ideal. I get to combine my two greatest loves which are learning about new cultures and languages, which is a huge passion of mine.
“I also think that there will be many challenges within the group, such as the fact that 3-4 weeks is a long time to be sleeping, eating and working with the same people and there will be times when people fall out and we get a bit fed up of one another.
“However, no matter the challenges, it will definitely be worth it.”
The 17-year-old currently volunteers at Cornerstone Connects, a centre for adults with complex needs in Galashiels.
She added: “Due to the differences in culture it will be challenging to try to fit in as no matter how much we try to learn before going it is impossible to know all of the traditions of each individual town.”
The venturers have been getting to know each other through training weekends which aim to develop observational skills, team skills, and knowledge of camping outdoors. The most recent one was held in October at Lilliesleaf which was aimed at helping the team cope with the challenges they may face abroad.
Fundraising will include a 10k run, car boot sales, selling homemade crafts and prints of commissioned artwork. So far the group have held a ceilidh, a quiz night and a Scalextric night.
16-year-old triathlete Zoe Pflug, also of Midlem and who currently attends Selkirk High School, said: “I hope to experience a different culture and make new friends. People in years above me at school had been on previous expeditions and have explained how life changing the experience had been.
“I can imagine people will suffer from altitude sickness regardless of how well we try to acclimatise. People maybe homesick or people may find the community phase difficult. However, I feel like the group of people going on the trip could get us through anything. The leaders are so genuine and the venturers all have a great sense of humour making for a very successful trip.”
The trip has also been supported by renowned chocolatier, Olivier Nicod, of Borders-based Cocoaecosse. The former head chocolatier at Hotel Chocolat donated a metre-high artisan chocolate Santa that weighs more than 3.5kg to a fundraising raffle held at The Flower Room in Kelso last month.
The chocolate consultant who moved to Scotland from France in 2004 said: “I heard about a young lady in Kelso doing this trip to help people and I think it is great to give young people this opportunity to go and see these other places. It’s a very good thing to let them experience other places and for countries to mix.
“When I heard, I wanted to do something to help her realise her dream.”
The charity began 25 years ago and every two years since it has taken young Borderers on a worldwide trip of a lifetime. Previous trips have included Malawi, Cuba and Vietnam, with the most recent being Austria in 2015.