Young leaders who have put in hundreds of hours of volunteering in Littlehampton are looking forward to extending their work to new cultures.
The team of five from Arun Youth Projects has been selected to join The Littlehampton Academy on a learning exchange trip to Romania.
Stacie Holmes, 18, Shannon McNeil, 16, twins Caprice and Elise White, 15, and Casey Gardner, 14, have together completed more than 500 hours of volunteering, running sporting activities for children, in the past year.
They say they have gained so much experience from their time as young leaders, they feel ready to develop their skills further and learn from new cultures.
Casey said: “It is a learning exchange where we will be helping the children and deepening our knowledge of the culture.”
They need to raise £3,250 - £650 each - for the nine-day trip next July and started their fundraising with a Ride to Romania event at the Wickbourne Centre in Littlehampton on Saturday.
They combined a 24-hour static bike ride with a fun day featuring stalls and challenges for all the family.
The young leaders said they prepared themselves by doing circuit training and eating healthily.
Emma Biffi, Littlehampton team lead at Arun Youth Projects, said: “The team set out to cycle the equivalent distance from Littlehampton to Romania. The distance was a massive challenge and we didn’t expect it to be so tough. Come 10pm on Saturday, we were all exhausted but we completed over 1,600km to get to the border of Romania in the end.
“We couldn’t have done it without the support of the local community, Arun Church and the Arun Youth Projects staff team.
“The event on Saturday was better and bigger than we anticipated. It was so busy and the local community really came out to support the girls.
“The fun day raised about £785, which is a massive amount of money – we did not expect that. Overall, they have raised £2,000 now.
“We worked out we had more than 50 volunteers on the bikes over the 24 hours. We had people arriving at 11pm with doughnuts and getting on the bikes for two hours to get the girls a break. We had people turning up at 6am to help out on the bikes.
“It was an incredible effort and I’m so proud of the girls. They did not give up once and we were all very happy when we finally finished.”
Emma said the trip to Romania will be a continuation of the amazing work the young leaders are already doing in this community and they will help to deliver an action-packed activity week in three Roma communities.
For some of them, it will be their first trip on an aeroplane.
Shannon said she is quite nervous but looking forward to seeing different parts of the world, while Stacie is looking forward to seeing how life is different in Romania.
They will not be allowed access to their phones during the trip, to enable them to be full immersed in the project.
Emma explained: “The idea is the downtime will be a social time where people can have conversations and reflect on the day.”
She said the whole trip was about the two cultures learning from each other.
The five from Arun Youth Projects will be part of a team of 30, planning and delivering an action-packed, engaging educational programme to Roma children.