To baldly go ...

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2007, 12:00am

Watching the three girls fuss over their hair in the mirror, you would never guess they are planning to shave it all off in two months.

Yolanda Miller, Kate Margetts and Adele Quinton-Page, all 16, are doing it to raise money for a World Challenge expedition to Kyrgyzstan, one of western China's neighbours, in June.

They, along with 12 other schoolmates at West Island School (WIS), must raise HK$24,000 each to fund the three-week expedition.

The trip is designed to help participants develop life skills, such as leadership, teamwork, effective communication and financial management.

Another 10 WIS students will be heading to Peru at the same time.

World Challenge works with 700 schools and 40,000 students every year across the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, the US, Canada and Hong Kong.

They provide challenging adventure education in exotic places ranging from countries in South America to the jungles of Borneo.

'We had a choice between Kyrgyzstan, Peru or Brazil,' said Yolanda. 'We picked Kyrgyzstan because we know that is a country we would never visit otherwise.'

Accompanied by teachers, the students will go on a nine-day trek in high altitudes, including through the Terskey Alatau and Kyrgyz mountain ranges, and take part in local community work.

'We're going to help build part of a school and work with Save The Children, a local organisation,' said Kate.

'We'll spend time playing with them, teach them English and learn about their culture.'

The students will be staying with host families as part of a community-based tourism project that aims to give them first-hand experience of the local way of life.

Culture shock is something they have factored into their pre-expedition preparations.

'We've done some research into the local culture. The men like to play polo with a dead goat,' said Kate.

'Apparently they drink goat testicles too,' added Yolanda.

Another cultural factor that will be easier for the girls to swallow is covering themselves with a veil when they are out and about.

'We need to prepare scarves to cover our face, necks, shoulders and arms,' said Yolanda.

The three agree that some members of the group will have a tougher time coping than others, because some have never had to wash dishes before.

'Some people in our group were shocked that we will be cooking our own food and washing our own dishes. I think some people will get more reward from [this trip] than others,' said Yolanda.

The students have also planned less extreme fund-raising initiatives, including abseiling from the 10th floor of their school and running up Two IFC, which they are doing today.

But the girls are determined. 'Shaving our heads is going to be very liberating,' said Kate.

''We've done some research into the local culture. The men like to play polo with a dead goat''