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Enactus Lancaster: Jailbreak 2013

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Last weekend, 68 Lancaster University students set out on the ultimate charity hitch-hike. Participants, who organised themselves into teams of two or three, had 36 hours to get as far away from the university campus as possible, without spending a single penny on transport. I decided to take part in the fundraiser for the second year running. It really is easier said than done.

The famous annual hitch-hike is where Enactus Lancaster, a student-run society, get the wide majority of their funds. Preparation starts weeks in advance. Not only do participants need to get sponsorship from family and friends, but they are encouraged to organise free travel to help them win the hitch-hike. This can be done in a variety of ways, with some students contacting huge international corporations in the hope of funding or transportation.

That's exactly what my friend and I did last year. We managed to acquire complimentary travel from Northern Rail, and then Crowne Plaza at Manchester Airport was kind enough to put us up in a room for the night. Monarch offered us a pair of free flights to Tenerife, and then Thomson allowed us to use their shuttle buses whilst out there. Last year, our whole plan fit neatly in to place with just a few minutes to spare. Monarch gave me the phone call just thirty minutes before we were due to embark on the hitch-hike; I quickly replaced my gloves with my sunglasses, and we were off. We stayed just one night in Tenerife, and were back in time for the lecture on Monday afternoon.

It is, however, perfectly acceptable to just wing it and see what happens. That's what we had to do this year and, like the vast majority of participants, we really had no idea what was about to happen. Northern Rail was kind enough to support us again this year, but unfortunately, no other company gave us a positive response. We started off by hitching a lift to the M6 service station, before getting in the cab of a truck heading down to Toddington on the M1. Our truck driver was heading to Poland, but unfortunately he spoke little English. We hitched another lift to the London Gateway service station, before walking seven miles into Cricklewood. The following day, we walked a further fourteen miles to Heathrow Airport, in hope of using our wit and charm to get a free flight. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be, and my uncle rescued us from Terminal 5.

Our final destination this year? Staines-upon-Thames. Quite different to Tenerife, I'm sure you'll agree.

Despite my body being in absolute agony (I wasn't wearing suitable shoes for such a lengthy hike!), we did meet some incredible people along the way. Whilst stuck in Toddington, we came across two students dressed as zebras. They happened to be from Edinburgh University, and they were taking part in the 'Race to Paris'. Whilst running around Heathrow Airport, we came across some students from Nottingham University who were participating in their own Jailbreak event. Receiving such positive support from absolutely everyone you meet really helps to boost your confidence, and I think that's one of the main benefits of taking part in Jailbreak. Everyone is extremely supportive, and there's such a high level of sportsmanship between teams. Participants are able to use language to persuade people to help you and the charity; that's what makes it such a fascinating experience for me.

However, the most important thing by far is, of course, the fundraising element. Last year, Jailbreak participants managed to raise around £3,500 for Enactus Lancaster. This year, the system was a lot more advanced and participants had the option to raise funds online. This year's total therefore stands at just over £6,000. The winning team managed to get to Tenerife, with those in second place making it to Germany.

The money will go towards Enactus Lancaster's four current projects which tend to focus on education and business. The biggest project is based in Zimbabwe where the team are working with orphans and helping to create a framework on which these young residents can build their futures. Not only are they working with companies in Lancaster to help distribute the wealth between small and large corporations, but they are also working out in Brazil to ensure smaller businesses are able to benefit from the inevitable hype and enthusiasm that will follow the Olympic Games in 2016. The charity is also working with a number of partners to maintain equal job opportunities for those on the autistic spectrum. All four projects are largely focused on business, allowing absolutely everyone to have an equal opportunity in the job market.

When all is said and done, it's always good to take a minute and reflect on the big picture. The very thought of sending 68 students out into the big wide world, armed only by their wit and charm, seems completely and utterly absurd. Yet that's exactly what we did. The fact that we have the technology to manage an event like this is truly amazing, and I often wonder what our grandparents must make of it all. From an advancement point of view, it truly is an immense showcase of where technology can change whole paradigms, pushing the boundaries of human capability. Participants are able to keep in constant contact with the society, friends, and family through social media. Participants are always just a phone-call away, and it is events like this that really make us realise how small our world actually is.

Click here to see the routes that our Jailbreak teams took last weekend, and click here to learn more about Enactus Lancaster.




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