Page last updated at 08:05 GMT, Saturday, 2 May 2009 09:05 UK

Around the world in 80 schools

by Rhodri Owen
BBC News website

Charlene Evans' world trip
Charline's travels took her to 80 schools in 12 countries

When special educational needs consultant Charline Evans tripped on the stairs at her Pontypridd home 18 months ago, breaking her leg in three places, little did she know how far her trip would take her.

Keeping herself occupied during her recuperation by watching videos of Michael Palin and Ewan McGregor travelling the world, the 47-year-old divorcee hit upon an idea that was to lead to the journey of a lifetime.

"I was watching these programmes and I was thinking there was something missing," explained Charline, the mother of three grown-up children. "They hadn't included children in their programmes.

"I thought wouldn't it be good to travel around the world like they did, but including schools on the way."

Charline Evans at Salem school in Uganda
It was occasionally dangerous but it was worth the risks.
Charline Evans

With her leg still in plaster, Charline designed a website outlining her plan to travel around the world visiting 80 schools in as many different countries as possible, and soon knew from the sheer amount of feedback she received that her idea was a goer.

All she needed was a year off from her job, based at Maes Gwyn school in Aberdare, and then there was the "small" matter of raising some funds.

"I started approaching organisations for funding to make the trip but there was a lot of concern about me travelling around the world on my own," said Charline.

"A lot of people didn't think that what I wanted to do was achievable.

'Crazy'

"Some of the countries I wanted to visit were at war. There was a 98% HIV rate in the part of Uganda I wanted to visit, and I also wanted to go deep into the Amazonian rainforest to look at the indigenous population there.

"A lot of my journeys were going to be to very remote schools. Many people thought I was a little crazy and nobody was willing to give me any finance."

Refusing to take no for an answer, Charline sold her house to raise the money she needed to make the trip, packed her rucksack and took the leap. Her first stop, on 29 February 2008, was at Coed y Lan primary school in her hometown.

Footage from some of the schools Charline Evans visited on her travels

But in April 2008 she ventured further afield, to Italy, and after that her journey took her to other parts of Europe, Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, central America and back to Wales.

On Friday 1 May 2009 she visited her 80th, and last, school, Maes yr Haul primary school in Bridgend. "I hadn't travelled much before," said Charline. "Just with some colleagues to Australia. So it was the first time I'd travelled on my own.

"I wanted people to be able to see what it's like to go to school in different parts of the world. It wasn't a commercial venture; it was just something I wanted to do.

Camels and canoes

"At each school I visited I took in video recording equipment so that the teachers could make a short film about their school and about their hopes, dreams and fears for the future."

Charline edited the footage - in total she has 80 hours of film in half a dozen different languages - and updated her website as she went, using web facilities in airport lounges and internet cafes.

As she expected, she had a few testing times on her travels by most forms of transport including plane, ferry, camel and even canoe.

"I was hit by somebody in a village called Ginja in Uganda," she explained. "I was the only white person there walking through the village and this old man came up to me a thumped me on the arm. That was a bit of a shock.

"When I was visiting a school located halfway up a volcano in Ecuador there was smoke and ash belching out and I also found myself alone with a guide in the south American jungle, surrounded by poisonous frogs and things.

Charline Evans
Charline with children from Belanaweva Junior School in Sri Lanka

"It was occasionally dangerous but it was worth the risks."

'Global curriculum'

Back home in Wales after 15 months, the big question is what Charline plans to do next.

"I've rented a house in Brecon and I think I'm going to sleep for the next 80 days," said Charline. "Then I'm going to reflect on my journeys, and the stories I came across, and decide where I go from there.

"It's looking like it's going to develop into a much larger project than I imagined. As far as I'm aware it's the first time anybody has done anything like this.

"I want to revise and develop the website further. I looked recently and saw I have 5,223 users around the world making use of the resources available there.

"I have had offers of work from Canada and the Japanese want me to write a book.

"We are currently working on a cartoon version of my trip and I have been approached by universities in Istanbul and America to look into creating a global curriculum for the future."



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