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Raleigh link-up shows spirit of adventure
By Nie Xin

THE iDEALShanghai Awards Ceremony hosted by Shanghai Daily last Tuesday saw the official launch of a partnership between Raleigh China, Shanghai Daily and The Peninsula Shanghai in initiatives to develop the potential of young people and help communities.

The collaboration will include more coverage in Shanghai Daily of inspiring stories about Raleigh China's work; the participation of more volunteers; plus activities encompassing corporate social responsibility.

Raleigh was established in the UK in 1978 by Prince Charles to promote youth development. Raleigh China was founded in 2008 in Shanghai. With the slogan "Serve and Achieve," it was the 21st Raleigh globally.

Raleigh now operates in 45 countries and regions. Over the years it has organized more than 280 expedition projects involving more than 37,000 young people. Initiatives include environmental protection, construction and education projects.

Prince Charles' son Prince William has also been involved in the scheme, going on an expedition to Chile in 2000.

"Raleigh aims to play the role of a bridge between formal education and society. This is particularly important in China, as this bridge is lacking but is much-needed," says Garrison Lu, CEO of Raleigh China and one of the founders in 2008.

Following seminars in school campuses around the whole country to promote the idea of Raleigh, around 20 assessment weekends are held in around 10 cities to test candidates. Those finally selected will take part in annual expeditions of between five and 10 weeks in southwestern China's Guizhou Province, Malaysia, India, Costa Rica and Tanzania.

"The two-day assessment weekend - some 33 hours - is like a mini expedition in itself," says Lu.

This is a two-way selection: Raleigh tests young applicants to see if they are qualified to join Raleigh; on the other hand, young people who know about Raleigh projects experience the living conditions and team culture of the expedition through the assessment weekends.

"It is a real test that lets them know whether Raleigh suits their development or not," Lu adds.

If selected, young adventurers have an important task to complete before they can set off; participants must raise the sum to cover their expedition.

And instead of asking for support from their families, young participants must get donations through their own efforts - such as doing part-time jobs or holding sales.

"It's important pre-training for young people, not merely about money," Lu emphasizes. "Through explaining the Raleigh concept and mission to others, they get to know more about the scheme themselves and build their commitment. At the same time, they have the chance to meet and overcome difficulties before starting on the tough expedition."

In their efforts to raise the funds, Raleigh participants report being misunderstood or, positively, encouraged and supported. Experiencing these reactions helps young people grow up and mature, says Lu.

Important element

He cites an example of college student Ji Dongming who needed to earn another 2,000 yuan (US$317), in addition to his scholarship (2,000 yuan). To reach his target, Ji delivered bottled water, earning 0.6 yuan for per bottle.

"Ji used to be a very shy boy born to a poor family. We saw him growing up to be a sunny man opening up to others. It is the most touching part in our project," says Lu.

"Young people are the most important element in the future and we care most about their development, in addition to the benefits on the areas in need and the cooperation with our partners and sponsors," he adds.

Some 77 young people participated in the most recent expedition in the summer in Guizhou Province, together with 31 volunteers and eight full-time staff from Raleigh China.

The missions of expeditions are grounded to the real needs of the areas benefited. On this occasion, participants rebuilt and repaired facilities in three schools.

"With this precious experience, young people are encouraged to focus on environmental protection and social responsibility," Lu says.

Another example of this is Guo Xin'ge, who graduated from high school last year and entered the London School of Economics, majoring in environment management.

She made this decision after joining a Raleigh expedition in Guizhou and being shocked by the environmental problems there. The region suffers from lithification - in which sediment turns into hard material - and the effects of intensive agriculture.

Lu says this kind of change of perceptions is typical.

"For the first 20 years of our lives we mostly live under others' expectations. After experiences like Raleigh expeditions, young people can discover who they really are and what kind of people they really want to be," Lu says.

The CEO took part in a Raleigh expedition in 1998 and he regarded this as a "lifetime experience."

"The staff team of Raleigh is like a table, supporting young people to grow up to be people with international views and power of action," Lu adds.

The seminar will be held in Fudan University next month.

"It will be an important promotion, not merely cooperating with this top university and spreading Raleigh's concept to college students there, but also forming a new model of the Raleigh China seminar," says Jenny Zhang, COO of Raleigh China.

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