Volunteering for Adventure

Originally appeared in the London Free Press, Tuesday, July 2, 1985.

Jungle Task Attracts London Couple

Two London lawyers are going to abandon the comforts of downtown city life to sleep in hammocks and sweat it out in the jungles of Peru installing water pumps as part of Operation Raleigh, a four-year around-the-world expedition for young people.

Jerome Morse and his wife, Cathy Lawrence, leave July 5 for Lima, Peru, to participate in Operation Raleigh as voluntary leaders. Helping to install the water pumps will be just one of the projects involving the couple. Lawrence said more than 70 young people from at least 20 countries will be in Peru for a three-month segment of the operation.

Operation Raleigh is an expedition devoted to scientific, conservation and community service projects. It is modelled on Operation Drake, a similar scheme staged five years ago. Lawrence was one of 23 Canadian "venturers" (participants) involved in Operation Drake. Her experiences with that project in Costa Rica have prepared her for the trip to the Peruvian jungle and she's looking forward to returning to a Third World nation.

Operation Raleigh, a charitable venture, commemorates the establishment of the first English-speaking colony in North America on Roanoke Island off Virginia in 1584. The Elizabethan explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh, founded the island colony.

Under the patronage of Prince Charles, Operation Raleigh began the four year odyssey in November, 1984. Leading the expedition is the 1,600-tonne flagship and research vessel, the Sir Walter Raleigh. The expedition will visit six continents and involve 4,000 young poeple, 100 of whom are Canadians.

Edward Vermue, 23, also from London, will join the project's research vessel in Chile in December.

Although most venturers will be involved with land-based projects, Vermue expects to spend most of his time helping man the ship. He is also a licensed diver and hopes to assist the marine biology experiments. Lawrence said Operation Raleigh tries to match the venturers with projects involving their individual interests and aptitudes.

Applicants must display resourcefulness and potential to benefit from the experience. They must be between the ages of 17 and 24. Minimum requirements are fitness, compatibility with other venturers and the ability to swim.

"We've been maintaining a pretty heavy-duty fitness program," said Lawrence.

After applicants are short-listed -- nearing the final selection, their imagination and composure are tested under stressful situations during an initiation weekend.

"It's basically an Outward Bound type of orientation weekend," said Lawrence.

The weekend combines physical testing with in-depth personal interviews, said Bonnie Baker, a London venturer who recently returned from Costa Rica.

Baker, 23, said her experience with Operation Raleigh in Central America was "the best, most rewarding" of her life.

She was part of a 14-member group involved in three projects. The group did some archeological research and scientific work in the rain forest but she said the best part was building a bridge across a river that empties into the Pacific.

The river would swell in the rainy season, Baker said, cutting a community of 20 families off from supplies, schools and medical help. Operation Raleigh, with help from the local community, built a bridge 30 meters (100 feet) long. She said it was hard work hauling wood and other supplies for kilometres, but it was worth it.

"We've allowed that community to get back and forth now for supplies and with this project we saw the results. It was really rewarding."

Although the expedition had not planned a project in Canada, Prince Charles requested involvement here. Consequently, organizers intend to have 30 venturers spend three months in the Arctic in the summer of 1988. Participants will be involved with scientific surveys and wilderness exploration.

Morse said part of the Peruvian project will involve placing a hovercraft on the Amazon tributaries because rivers are often the only means of interior travel and transportation.

"The object is for Peru to become familiar with the hovercraft and learn how to run things themselves," he said.

Financing for Operation Raleigh comes from the individual participants and corporate donations. Lawrence says it costs $6,000 to send a person on the expedition. Of that amount the individual must raise $2,000. Lawrence said Labatt Brewing Co. in London recently donated $12,000 to the expedition.