Helen Venter

23rd November 2015

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Daughter Hannah travelled to Nepal with St Mary’s DSG (Pretoria) in April 2015. Hannah was in-country when a powerful earthquake hit the area between the capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara.
Why did you feel a World Challenge expedition would be good for Hannah?  
Initially, we did not think it was the right time for Hannah to be going on an overseas school trip but she had started doing the President’s Award and the expedition could form part of that. The teacher accompanying the girls from school persuaded us that it was a good time for Hannah to be going. The next step was to read up all we could via the Internet about World Challenge and Nepal.   
Hannah is an only child and has rarely spent much time away from both parents (school trips and occasional long weekends with friends) but in a few years will be ready for university. We knew she needed to have more time away from us, get out of her comfort zone and experience a new environment. She is fortunate in that since birth we have travelled a lot with her – mainly Europe, Canada, USA and the Caribbean – but we knew this would be an entirely different experience for her.
How do you think it will help her future success and development?  
Hannah is hoping to study at a UK university and from all the research she did prior to the trip, we realised that this World Challenge experience could only be a ‘plus’ on her CV! 
How did you find World Challenge throughout the programme? 
From the very beginning (which for us was via the Internet) we felt that all the information provided was clear and timely and we never felt the need to ask more questions. The information evenings were informative, helpful and thorough and we received emails regularly with reminders and further information.  
During the earthquake ordeal, all information was sent via email, text messages and phone calls and although we did not phone the Operations Centre, other parents who did, found the staff to be helpful and always available. The handling of the evacuation after the earthquake was extremely professional and we were kept up-to-date with all their movements and any queries the parents had.  
How did you find the safety and support that World Challenge provided?
Safety was always a serious issue for us but right from the very start we knew of all the safety measures that would be in place. World Challenge has a good safety record. The girls were constantly reminded of what was expected of them as well and while in Nepal the Expedition Leader was very strict regarding staying together and not wandering off. Moreover, they were well informed before the trip of acceptable behaviour and dress code in Nepal – and there was no compromise with this. 
How did Hannah prepare for the trip? 
We knew from the beginning that this would be quite a test on our daughter’s fitness. Thankfully she is involved in sports at school and has always been keen on keeping fit. The school organised fitness sessions specifically for the girls going to Nepal. Hannah had already completed her bronze and silver level hikes here in South Africa but some of the girls had not trekked before so a day’s hike was arranged before departure. 
In what ways do you think Hannah has changed since going out on expedition?
We knew that this would be a life-changing experience for Hannah before she left but we did not anticipate in what way! It was her first ‘big’ adventure away from home without parents and a close friend. The whole trip was a challenge to settle in a group of girls who were not all best buddies in school and to try and broach new friendships. Hannah particularly enjoyed the project with the school children and learning about their diverse lives and dreams for the future. The hike was a great challenge, but well worth it as the views were spectacular, with stunning scenery. 
The earthquake was a major experience and for a short time most of the girls were worried about their parents worrying! World Challenge was particularly careful to travel through towns in the night so that the girls would not see too much destruction and they were not exposed to anything too upsetting.  
I do think Hannah became more confident in herself and in her relationships with others.  She got on very well with Phil Kennedy, the Expedition Leader, and we are most grateful for his support and friendship.  
Would you recommend a World Challenge expedition to your family and friends? 
Absolutely! It gives parents the opportunity to allow their children to do something quite different. We knew that her time in country would be ‘out of the ordinary’ and Hannah would be exposed to far more than we get to see on our family vacations. She had the opportunity not only to travel to a part of the world she had never seen before, but got to see that country in a different way.
The World Challenge website is extensive and very explanatory. World Challenge stay in contact via email and send through regular updates and reminders.  Along with this, the Challengers are encouraged to get fit – and being fit is part of the challenge!  
The emphasis is on the fun and also building team spirit prior to departure. The kit information evening makes tackling the equipment part a lot smoother. The Challengers are always made to feel very much part of the planning. 
Every child should have the opportunity to travel somewhere without their parents and World Challenge makes this possible by providing a very safe and secure expedition and parents can rest assured that their child is in safe hands but having an experience of a lifetime.