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The BBC's Jennie Bond
"He has insisted from the start that he is treated like everyone else"
 real 56k

Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 05:58 GMT
William walks on the wild side
Prince William in the village of Tortel, Southern Chile, during his Raleigh International expedition
Prince William says he enjoys "making a difference"
Prince William is relishing his experience as a venturer on a Raleigh International expedition during his gap year in Chile.

In an interview released on Sunday, the 18-year-old prince revealed the highs and lows of the 10-week trip, from sleeping under the stars, to dancing the salsa with villagers and tracking rare deer.

Living conditions in the Chilean countryside came as a shock to the 18-year-old former Eton pupil, but he says he is loving every minute - even the time he spent stranded on a beach after a storm.

"Here you are actually making a difference to other people's lives," he said.


The living conditions here aren't exactly what I'm used to

Prince William
The prince is now based at a campsite in the remote coastal village of Tortel after an expedition kayaking in ocean fjords and tracking a rare Huemul deer in the Tamango National Reserve.

"The living conditions here aren't exactly what I'm used to. But they are definitely better than I've had in the past six weeks," he said.

"We're living in an old nursery. It has got a vague carpet and a roof over our heads, which is more than we've had. We sleep on the floor on a sleeping bag with about 16 other people all cramped together."

The prince's first brush with adversity during the trip, which started on 1 October, came when his kayaking group was stranded on a beach during a five-day storm.

"The wind whipped up into a storm. The tents were flapping around so violently that we thought they were going to blow away," he said.

"Everything was soaked through. It was quite demoralizing."

William
Earning the respect of fellow volunteers
Having survived the expedition, William moved to Tortel, about 950 miles south of the Chilean capital Santiago where he has helped locals build wooden walkways to link their homes and an extension to the fire station.

He is also teaching English to local schoolchildren - but ran into trouble explaining the "W" in his name.

Standing before a class of 10 and 11-year-olds, he wrote his name on a board and then had to draw an animal starting with the same letter

Struggling to think of one, William came up with wombat and, then at a loss to draw one, wrote in clear blue letters: "My name is William. I am a wombat."

Popular prince

William has mixed with the locals, including a bit of salsa dancing, and has enjoyed being treated as an "equal" by the other volunteers.

Chilean Patagonia, he says, is an amazing place.

Marie Wright, the 29-year-old project manager for Raleigh in Tortel, said William has earned the respect of his colleagues who come from all walks of life in the UK and around the world.

William
Pat-a-cake prince. William helps out at a school
About 20% of young people taking part in the trip come from a disadvantaged background, having been unemployed, or involved in drugs or crime.

"He's popular on his own merit," said Ms Wright.

"He gets on with the work, he's very humble and laid back and likes to be normal, and there's no reference to his background."

One of William's fellow volunteers, a 17-year-old homeless boy who says he came on Raleigh to escape a life of drugs, said he was having the experience of a lifetime.


I take the Mickey out of him all the time and call him `Little Princess'. He doesn't mind, he just laughs along with it.

Raleigh venturer
"Everyone gets on really well and William fits right in," he said. "I take the Mickey out of him all the time and call him `Little Princess'.

"He doesn't mind, he just laughs along with it."

Some of William's colleagues have a lot to thank him for.

When a fire broke out in a camp shelter the prince is reported to have been on hand to help tackle the blaze and stop it spreading.

Flames destroyed the wooden shelter, but the group's kit was rescued by the prince and the camp's medic.

William decided to join the expedition during his gap year between school and university because he wanted to do something "different" and help people.

Next year, he begins his studies at St. Andrew's University in Scotland.

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10 Dec 00 | UK
Life lessons from Chile
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