Gran is off up the Amazon for once-in-a-lifetime trip

Nicola Barnes looks ahead to her Amazon trip.
Nicola Barnes looks ahead to her Amazon trip.

A grandmother from South Tyneside is set for a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip to the Amazon rainforest as she aims to help youngsters in rural communities.

Nicola Barnes, of Stanhope Road, South Shields, has been accepted on to the Volunteer Eco Students Abroad (VESA) Programme, and will fly out to Ecuador next June.

Nicola Barnes is to travel to Ecuador to volunteer.

Nicola Barnes is to travel to Ecuador to volunteer.

She will spend two weeks there helping remote communities, including teaching children English, helping to restore a primary school, building toilet blocks and helping to keep children healthy and in school.

Nicola, 43, who is in the second year of a three-year social work degree course at the University of Sunderland, will travel deep into the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.

The mum-of-two, who is also a grandmother to Tristan, six, will then work in a riverside jungle town, working with the villagers and village chief to address the major issues there.

She will travel daily to work by canoe.

It’s an opportunity that I couldn’t miss out on

Nicola Barnes

She said: “When VESA came into the university to ask people if they would be interested, I decided I really wanted to contribute.

“It’s going to be a new adventure for me, and although I’m a bit nervous and scared about it, I know I’m going to be making a difference to people’s lives so it’ll be worth it.

“I’ll also get to experience a new community, which could help with my social work skills, and it’ll allow me to see how a different culture works and how different people interact.

“I’m really excited about it and it’s the first time I’ve volunteered for something like this, so it’s going to be a great adventure.

Nicola Barnes will travel to work by canoe.

Nicola Barnes will travel to work by canoe.

“It’s an opportunity that I couldn’t miss out on.”

Every volunteer who flies out to Ecuador will complete a minimum of 40 hours of hands-on community volunteer work.

Nicola is now seeking donations or sponsorship to ensure she can make the trip and make a difference, with the materials, travel and insurance all to be paid by the volunteers themselves.

All of the remaining money will go towards helping the children in the Ecuadorian village.

Nicola Barnes with grandson Tristan.

Nicola Barnes with grandson Tristan.

Those interested in making a donation can visit www.volunteerforever.com/volunteer_profile/nicola. She is aiming to raise £3,000.

For more information on the VESA programme, visit www.vesabroad.com or call 020 3239 1443.