IT HAS sent generations of school pupils on 100 expeditions to the four corners of the world.
But now a Yorkshire charity, which was formed more than 50 years ago, says its future could be in doubt amid fears that young people in the county are turning their backs on the spirit of adventure.
The Yorkshire Schools Exploring Society (YSES) began life in 1964 when a group of teachers who ran small expeditions for pupils at Allerton Grange High School, in Leeds, decided to branch out and connect pupils from other Yorkshire schools.
Their first trip involved pupils from four schools travelling up to Eskdale, in the Lake District.
In 1966 they went to the small nation of Andorra, in the Pyrenees, with students from 18 different schools in their party.
And from there the YSES grew steadily over the next 50 years to organise and lead expeditions for thousands of young people all over the world.
Its destinations have included Iceland, Norway, Kenya, the Faroes Islands, China, Peru, Himalayas, Australia, South Africa and Mongolia.
It also organises trips closer to home to with locations such as the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Mull off the coast of Scotland, to the Shetland Islands, North Wales and to Shannon in Ireland.
YSES’s patron is British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington who the charity says “embodies the adventuring spirit” having lead expeditions to the Himalayas nineteen times including four to Mount Everest.
Bonington began climbing when he was 16 years old.
The society says it still has the same aim as it did when it was founded 1964: to encourage and promote the personal development of young people through adventurous activities.
Their expeditions involve a mix of community volunteer work and adventuring.
However in recent years’ take-up and interest in the trips has declined and the YSES organising team say they are now struggling to fill places.
Simon Dixon, YSES committee member said: “The trips we organise give young people a taste of that age-old adventuring spirit. Whether that’s paddling down the Yukon river, a camel trek through the African bush or visiting remote regions of Xinjiang province of Western China, we’ve been there and done it. The trips always have a volunteering and environmental element. The aim is to challenge young people, encourage them to work as a team and give them a cultural experience they’d never get on a two-week holiday to Spain.
“We’ve really struggled with take up on our trips in recent years which is a huge shame as they offer something totally unique. It’s a way for young people to escape the daily routine of school and family life, and experience something that will change their lives forever. If interest continues to decline it will not be possible to run expeditions in the future and we will be no more, which would be a huge loss.”
Becca Howlett from Skipton Girls High School went on a expedition to Kenya in 2014 aged 15.
She said: “Feeding giraffes with my bare hands, strolling past herds of elephants. Swimming at the top of a waterfall. Just some of the amazing things I did on my trip to Kenya
“I applied for the trip to Kenya for the adventure to travel to and explore a new country. I had heard stories from previous explorers about their amazing experiences and wanted see it for myself. Who knew I would have such a life changing time. Our expedition involved a week of community projects, building tables for a local school and digging a water pipe, as well as a camel trekking and visiting the famous Samburu national park. We were actually walking and camping in the African bush and got to see some amazing wild animals- I lost count of the number of elephant we saw...We became such a great team and had so many funny times which I will never forget. I developed so many invaluable skills: teamwork; confidence; practical skills; independence, the list is endless. It was my first time of absolute freedom and changed me into a better person. It broadened my horizons and changed my perspectives but I also made lifelong friends, even with the camels! Another bonus is that it’s a great thing to talk about at interviews and to put on your personal statement.
“There’s no doubt it has helped me get my university place this year and sparked my desire to travel the world. It’s hard to express in words how amazing the trip was so all I would say is go try it out for yourself and get out of your comfort zone.”
The Yorkshire Schools Exploring Society is organising two trips next year to Borneo and Morocco which are open for applications. The trips are open to any young people in full time education in Yorkshire (including what was Humberside and parts of Cleveland) between the ages of 15 and 18. They are usually two to three weeks in duration and take place during the summer school break. The Borneo expedition costs £2,550 plus flights and the Morocco expedition costs £1,100 plus flight. YSES encourages everyone to raise the expedition cost through sponsorship or fund-raising initiatives. Application forms can be downloaded from www.yses.org.uk or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.