CHARITY outdoor centre Longridge in Marlow has taken on an international flavour with the arrival of four recruits from the around the globe as part of a charity outreach programme. This week we meet Juan, one of the four volunteers.
Juan might just have been destined to end up at Longridge. His name in Spanish means ‘cold river’ and since his arrival from Ecuador in February he spends quite a lot of his time splashing around in the Thames.
"My favourite activity here at Longridge is raft-building," he said. "You help a group of kids build a raft, and then you use it to go round the island, before heading back to shore. Everybody gets very wet. It’s a lot of fun."
21-year-old Juan has travelled a long way to work at Longridge. He is from Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and is one of four full-time instructors who volunteers at the activity centre.
He joins three others – one from New Zealand and two from Australia – who arrived in February as part of charity initiative Latitude.
Latitude is in international youth development organisation, which aims to educate and develop young people from all over the world by providing inclusive opportunities for them to make a positive difference to the lives of others.
Teenagers and young people from the UK can go over to work in Juan’s country, Ecuador, or they might choose to go somewhere like Ghana, South Africa or Australia.
The four are given accommodation on site, a bit of pocket money every month, and a full month’s training in all the activities available.
An Juan is perfectly suited to life at the Thameside activity centre, having a thirst for adventure which includes a trip up Mount Cotopaxi – one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.
He said: "I’m very sporty, and I love the outdoors. I’ve done mountaineering and things like that, even climbing Cotopaxi back home.
"But before I came here, I’d never done any of the things they do at Longridge. It’s really fun learning new skills and trying new things.
"I like kayaking and canoeing, and I really love the Jacob’s ladder. It’s a team-building exercise where you climb a rope ladder as a group. It gets harder and harder the higher you go, and you have to really work together to get to the top. It’s a great experience."
Juan says he is thrilled to have come to Longridge, praising the people of Marlow and insisting that he would love to come back after a spot of travelling when his volunteering stint is up.
He said: "I love working with kids. Back home I worked at a church holiday camp, organising activites for everyone. I knew I wanted to travel, and to know more places. I’d never been to Europe before, but it’s great here.
"I really like Marlow. I like the people, and the fact you can just go round the corner from Longridge and everything you need is there. I’m also saving the money they give me here to travel at the end of the season.
"I’d like to see even more of Europe. I go back to Ecuador in October, but I’d like to come back to England again one day if possible. I like it here."