A teenager is set to travel thousands of miles to volunteer for an important environmental initiative that also looks after unwanted animals.
After coming across the conservation project in Peru, Sophie Webster plans to work there for a month later this year.
She needs to raise £3,500 to do so and as well as a contribution from her paid employment, the Hartburn resident hopes to bring in a considerable amount from initiating and participating in various events and sponsorship donations.
The 19-year-old has loved animals from a young age and family pets include dogs and horses.
Since leaving high school, she has been building up her animal care and management and conservation work experience. She is currently volunteering at the Northumbrian Hedgehog Rescue Trust and Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter.
In the autumn, she will begin her studies to gain the necessary qualifications to pursue a career in these fields.
Sophie said: “My love for conservation started when I studied ecological succession and biodiversity in both GCSE and A-level biology.
“I did some volunteering work during this time, including at the Pegasus Centre in Tranwell which provides horse riding for disabled people.
“As I am trying to get as much experience as possible this year, I’ve been telling people I know that I would like to do a stint abroad and one of my friends recommended Projects Abroad after going on one of the placements in Sri Lanka that are available through the organisation.
“When I looked through the options, the one at a research centre in part of the Peruvian rainforest appealed to me the most because of the amount of work that the project does for the area.
“With the help of volunteers, the staff are looking to present enough reliable data to the Peru government so they can get the green light to establish a recognised reserve in the region.
“Whilst collecting this information, the centre is applying for status as an official animal rescue centre as it takes in unwanted and confiscated animals. They are cared for and rehabilitated.
“Another aim is to breed and release some of the native species that are close to extinction – these include the black spider monkey, the white fronted capuchin monkey and the fresh water side necked turtle.
“The centre is looking at the impact of over farming and fishing by local villagers and to help this situation, they are being educated in fish and livestock breeding as well as sustainable arable farming methods.
“It also helps to replant areas of the rainforest and educates locals on the importance of the rainforest.
“Spending a month there will give me a better understanding of conservation issues and help my personal development.”
Her fund-raising activities so far include cake sales and going to car boot sales. She has received donations from the following people and businesses: Skyline Loft Conversions, AME Building Contractors, Warren Brothers, George Bowman, Neil Greaves and MKM Building Supplies.
To make a donation, visit www.myprojectsabroad.org/fundraising/boxwxm