School Leader, Whickham School & Sports College

17th December 2015

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How many WC expeditions have you been on and to where?
Ladakh (India), Bolivia, Mexico, Morocco and Tanzania.
Why did you choose for your students to go on a World Challenge rather than using another expedition company? 
The choice of destinations and the ability to adapt the expedition to the requirements of the school. In addition the support and advice provided by the In-Country Agents has enhanced every expedition I have been on. The World Challenge staff are also very approachable as are all the Expedition Leaders I have been involved with; they have been extremely competent and good role-models for the Challengers.
What are you hoping to achieve for your own personal development?
A chance to learn new skills and cope with unfamiliar situations and problems.
What do you think are the values of running a World Challenge?
Apart from the obvious benefits to the students, the school gets a higher profile in the community as most of the fundraising tends to be done within it. School Leaders get to interact with students to a much greater degree than in the classroom and this can impact on their general relationship with them within school.
How do you think having something like a World Challenge on their CV will benefit a student who wishes to move on to university/the workplace?
It demonstrates that they can show a commitment to an extended project, from the initial planning through the fundraising and preparation to the final execution. It shows that they are willing to extend their horizons and challenge themselves.
What do you think are the outcomes for students embarking on a World Challenge?
During the fundraising process many of them have had to plan events and they gain in communicative and organisational skills. On expedition they learn to work as a team and develop their leadership skills. They have had to push themselves and operate outside their comfort zone; therefore return from expedition with more self-confidence and tolerance. Above all they have had the chance to experience and live within other cultures and I feel they gain in maturity and strength of character.
Did you ever have any concerns about the expeditions? 
There is always a slight trepidation when setting out on expedition; not with the organisation and implementation of the itinerary, but how the students are going to cope with the challenge. For example, the physical challenge of the trek, home sickness and stomach bugs. Once in country you just get on with it. Teamwork and effective communication between the Challengers and Leaders normally sort out issues before they turn into problems.
Did you always feel as though you and the students were in safe hands – balancing risk against challenge?
Yes. All routes and activities have been thoroughly checked and risk assessed. World Challenge has several layers of back-up starting with the Leader’s Manual and the In-Country Agents leading up to the 24/7 Operations Centre. This results in a greater sense of adventure for the students whilst still operating in a relatively safe environment.
Why is travel to the developing world important for young people?
It can put life into perspective and it helps them understand the world we live in. In particular they learn to realise that you can lead a fulfilled life without the need for material wealth as demonstrated by the villages they pass through on expedition. 
Has the pre-departure process involved lots of additional work?
Obviously there is the administrative work which is always associated with educational visits. With regards to the build-up, there is little extra work, especially if the Challengers get involved in it. I viewed it as a welcome distraction from the classroom and an opportunity to get to know the students and to team build. 
How did your students embrace the build-up stage (fundraising etc.)?
The students fully embraced all aspects of the build-up. They researched their destination and went to the planning meetings with some preliminary ideas for the itinerary. Fundraising often became social events with the students supporting each other and getting help from their family and friends. The expedition training weekend was taken seriously and as an opportunity to gain experience in camp craft, learn new skills and test out kit.
Would you recommend other schools get involved with World Challenge and why?
Yes, it is a company that can provide a wide range of life-changing experiences for students without losing that personal touch.