A teenager is swapping Magaluf for Malawi to go on a life-changing adventure.
Grangemouth High School sixth year pupil Gemma Collins is currently well on her way to raising the £5000 she needs to travel to the African country in September and spend the next 12 months - before she starts university - with Project Trust teaching children and helping out at an orphanage.
Gemma has been away from parents Gary and Lynn before - on holiday with pals in Magaluf - but she knows a year in Malawi will not be all about fun in the sun.
She said: “I’ve always wanted to go to a place like Malawi and help people. I can’t wait to see how people live there - it will be a real eye- opener because we take so much for granted here.
“I think it will make me grow up a bit and make me appreciate things more. I feel like I’m going there to try to make someone’s life better - if I can do that then I’ll be happy.”
Established over 40 years ago, Project Trust is a registered charity which sends volunteers aged 17 to 19 out to ongoing initiatives in locations all over the continents of Africa, Asia and the Americas in a bid to make a real difference to people’s lives.
The 17-year-old’s quest began last December when she applied to Project Trust and was selected as a suitable candidate. She then moved into overdrive after Christmas, turning her home in Don Street into Grangemouth’s fund-raising central.
The enterprising youngster has already raised £1000 through various events, including raffles and her mum Lynn’s regular fitness classes at the Dalgrain Hall. She has also received donations of raffle prizes and cash from Grangemouth Rotary, Fitzcharles Coaches, Tone Zone and Antonio’s Restaurant.
“I’ve had a lot of help from my mum and my family and local businesses - but mainly my mum,” she said
Lynn (41) said: “She has been up until 3 a.m. writing letters to send to charities and companies and she also has her school work as well. She’s very independent and very driven.
“I’m really proud of her and so is her dad - it’s something I would never have done, but it will be a great experience for her before she starts university and an amazing thing to put on her CV.”
Gemma admitted she had already written a Christmas card for her mum because she will not see her again until September 2013 and said boyfriend Liam Anderson shares her view the 12 months away from home is an opportunity too good to miss.
“Liam is not the kind of person who would try and hold me back - he has been really encouraging.”
Unfortunately Gemma’s adventurous nature does not stretch to food, but she is hopeful she can cope with the local cuisine.
“I’m quite a fussy eater and I get the boak quite easily,” she laughed.
And the confident teenager, who does not mind talking about her Project Trust adventure in front of a roomful of people, turns to jelly when confronted by the sight of a syringe needle.
She sighed: “I have to get eight injections before I go to Malawi.”
The next big fundraising effort will be a night of entertainment at Lodge Zetland on Saturday, February 24, featuring the vocal talents of Elvis clone Johnny Lee Memphis and Gemma already has a bungee jump and a bag packing day organised.
If you can help Gemma with sponsorship visit www.virginmoneygiving.com.GemmaCollins2 for more information.