STUDENTS are gearing up for their school’s fifth visit halfway across the world to experience life in a disadvantaged African village.
Twenty Year 11 students from English Martyrs School, in Hartlepool, will jet off to Kartong Village, in The Gambia, in February next year.
They have been raising money to support their African link school, Darsilami School, and worked with the Jole Rider and Bikes4Africa charities to raise cash to ship bikes out to the village.
The students, who have called themselves Team Gambia 2012, took part in a sponsored bike ride and walk at Summerhill.
Some of the students rode five times around the Summerhill track, which is the equivalent of the six miles that some students in The Gambia have to walk to school and back every day.
Anna Martindale, the school’s advanced skills teacher for international development and global citizenship and geography teacher, said: “Participating students have carried out this event for the past five years running and it has been very successful, usually raising £2,000 or more.
“Our students will be able to appreciate how much of a difference it can make to travel this distance by bike.
“If students in the Gambia can have bikes they can arrive to school on time and less tired, not only allowing them to fully access the education that is available but also be more successful as a result.
“The whole scheme will develop their skill set.
“It’s the empathy that will stay with them for life.”
Bikes that are shipped to Africa are reconditioned in a prison in Dover before they are exported to Banjul, The Gambian capital.
While in Africa, the students and five teachers, Mrs Martindale, Nichola Hutchinson, Tom Hodgeson, AnneMarie Lavelle, Rob Webster and local priest Father Adrian Tuckwell, will be living in tents.
In November, a member of staff from Darsilami School will spend 10 days at English Martyrs School, in Catcote Road, strengthening the links between the two schools.
The school’s previous fundraising events have included a Strictly Come Dancing-style event for staff, a staff charity album and an annual race night.
This year, the staff are launching a cookery book and organising a fashion show on November 9, with local businesses involved.
Mrs Martindale thanked Simon Smith, parent of participating student Olivia Smith, whose company Longcross Construction is sponsoring the trip.
Anyone who can help with donations towards the students’ charity work can call Mrs Martindale on (01429) 273790.