THREE pals are counting down to an African mission where they will help improve the education of village school children.
In six weeks time Neil Froggatt, Glenn Ford and Jan Smolaga will spend a fortnight camped out among a banana plantation at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Apart from fighting off mosquitoes, using squat toilets and sampling the local brew, the group are tasked with renovating Nkwasanagare Primary School.
It is the trip of a lifetime for the trio, all aged 28, who went to Dinnington Comprehensive School together.
And they hope to leave the young Tanzanians with brighter, more modern classrooms and a brand new playground.
“We’ll be getting really hands-on painting walls, installing facilities and engaging with the school community,” said Neil, of Church Lane, North Anston.
“It’s a great opportunity to really make a difference and I’m sure it will make us realise how lucky we all are.”
Neil said he was looking forward to leaving his mobile phone and comfortable bed behind and being part of a 10-strong team who will pitch in to get the job done.
It has been a long hard slog to raise the funds to pay for the challenge, organised by development charity Childreach International.
Jan works for the charity in London, and Glenn also lives in the capital, so Neil is the only one fund raising in the Dinnington area.
Months of wacky sponsored events and generous donations have almost paid off, with the group nearing their target.
Neil has embarked on his own hairy challenge – a sponsored beard grow.
“Four months in and I still haven’t had a shave,” he said.
“Despite vicious rumours to the contrary, I haven’t been shaving or trimming it on the cheeks, it just doesn’t grow there.”
Countless supermarket bag packing sessions, raffles, street collections, race nights and an Ebay charity sale later, the group are nearing their target.
“We needed to raise over £2,000 each to pay for our travel, accommodation and everything else we’ll need while we’re out there,” said Neil.
“I’m almost there, but we still need donations to achieve the group total.”
Nkwasanagare Primary School takes children aged five to 14, but Childreach soon hopes to help expand its provision to include a nursery class.
The school motto – ‘Education is the key to life’ – highlights the passion and hard work of the teachers who strongly believe education opens the door to many opportunities for children.
For our three local lads, their trip of a lifetime hangs on hitting the cash target.
n The challenge starts on 1st October.
If any individuals or businesses would like to donate, visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NeilFroggatt or http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/GlennFord