ALASTAIR More (16), a fifth year pupil from Balwearie High School has returned from a month spent in Mongolia on a World Challenge expedition.
He told the Press of his lifechanging experience:
“I first heard of the opportunity at a school assembly back in 2010. At first there was huge interest and 150 people put themselves forward, but as meetings took place and details emerged about the difficulties of fundraising £4000, it dropped to under 50.
“I understood how hard this would be, but the idea of experiencing a totally different culture and being able to help young children so much more disadvantaged than myself was one I wasn’t going to give up on.
“Over the first six months I raised £2500 taking part in a sponsored abseil, setting up a car washing business, selling cakes, doing car boot sales and my dad’s singing group ‘Ensemble’ performing a concert for me.
“A training weekend was held in the countryside and we practiced everything from cooking, cleaning and setting up tents, to river crossings and how to deal with injuries.
“The final months before leaving were hectic – buying everything I needed and trying to fit it all in my rucksack.
“From the morning we left on June 26 until we arrived back in Edinburgh airport 30 days later my World Challenge adventure was incredible!
“The constant challenges and experiences made sure I was always busy and homesickness never really affected me.
“A Mongolian man said I was a natural on a horse, which coming from those who start riding aged three was quite a compliment.
“The flies, heat and a painful coccyx were a slight downer at times but overall the experience of riding through the beautiful Mongolian steppe was something very special.
“Our walking trek was very challenging at times due to a mishap with our pack horses on the second day running off with our food and passports into a river, but as a team we worked through it and that made me all the prouder of our achievements.
“We had some great laughs along the way and the sight of golden eagles circling overhead is a sight I won’t forget.
“The project was the most rewarding part and in eight days we painted three corridors, a mural and organised an activities day for local children.
“Everyone had great fun getting to know the kids, despite the language barrier. I’d learned some basic Mongolian so I could speak to them.
“Gumbillig was our favourite little boy who was a top football player but didn’t own a ball.
“The surprise and wonder on his face when we gave him a replica football made the whole trip and makes me smile even now when I picture it.
“Being on the Great Wall of China at the end of our trip is also a feeling I’ll never forget and many other memories will stay with me forever.
“I’d like to thank everyone who helped me reach Mongolia. It really was the experience of a lifetime.”