11:53am Monday 24th February 2014
FORMER Marling School student Luke Thomas, 19, is spending six months in Africa taking up various volunteering positions at schools, conservation projects and charities while raising money for UNICEF. He has written this article from Moshi, in Tanzania.
I LIE lurched against the aisle side of my bus seat counting down the minutes until we arrive at Moshi.
The bloke beside me tries to strike conversation to distract me from our lateness.
"Where are you from?" he asks.
I tell him I'm from the countryside, an hour or so from Birmingham and Bristol.
"You are not from Manchester?" he said with shock.
I hadn't realised every British tourist riding the evening bus from Arusha to Moshi had to be Mancunian.
I presume he is a Manchester United fan.
So what has happened?
How have I found myself here on a bus with nothing more in my possession than a rucksack, a phone, bank cards and some emergency snacks?
I couldn't tell you when the thought of volunteering in Africa first cropped up in my mind.
The entire idea was more akin to a festering intrigue than a blinding spark of inspiration.
But as the months, weeks and days drew closer to my arrival in Africa, my reasons for choosing this destination became clearer.
What I was after, was an experience which in the short term could make a positive contribution to as many lives as possible and in the long term could inspire me to direct the purpose of my life towards continuing that positive effect.
The multifaceted nature of this adventure is what makes it so worthwhile - every moment is so valuable in so many different ways.
By climbing Kilimanjaro, I'll be inspired by the splendour of nature and our environment and I'll be taught several painful lessons in the art of perseverance and battling against my bodily limitations.
Travelling across the African continent and experiencing new cultures and ways of life is an experience that will intrinsically develop my character and values, values which I will then live the rest of my life by.
I expect to broaden my levels of tolerance and acceptance.
Volunteering for orphanages, schools, conservation projects and various other good causes is a powerful way to provide assistance and support to those that need it most in the short term.
By building links with such causes, I'll simultaneously be breaking down the barriers between alternative cultures, demographics, and races.
Throughout my travelling I'll be performing spoken word poetry at schools and institutes, which will aid me in spreading a message of the values I'll be learning on my journey.
Even from a holistic perspective, this entire trip is raising donations for UNICEF, one of the most respected global charities working to maintain and enhance children's rights by empowering the impoverished and bringing forgotten communities out of deprivation.
To sponsor Luke go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AfricanGapYear
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