Six Barnfield Federation students who pooled their pocket money to help a desperately sick Ugandan child are in the finals of the Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Young People of the Year awards.
Their £250 donation covered the cost of a life-saving operation for 14-month-old Anna Fridah who was suffering from water on the brain.
The teenagers – who were in the deprived Budaka region of Uganda as part of a charity challenge from Dunstable-based Onset Trust - had raised £1,000 each to go on the trip after OT had approached the Federation to provide an ambulance for the area.
The sextet were so moved by the tiny tot’s plight that they immediately abandoned plans to buy souvenirs in favour of funding her vital surgery.
Aspiring doctor Lauren Hall, 18, from Barnfield South Academy, said: “Saving this child’s life made me feel immensely proud but also determined to try to help more people in the future.
“I’ve learned that sometimes the smallest difference can make the biggest change.
“Although the trip was emotionally and physically exhausting, I’d do it all again tomorrow.”
Fellow pupil Jade Colbert, 17, did a fundraising skydive for the trip but admitted visiting Uganda had brought her down to earth with a bump: “It was an eye-opener. The conditions out there were very poor.
“The locals had nothing except the clothes they stood up in, yet they were so happy.
“When we came home we realised how much we take for granted.”
The Barnfield team included Amy Howe from Barnfield South and Lauren Cole, Angelika Gasiorkiewicz and Rebecca Piggot from Barnfield West.
They were accompanied by two East of England paramedics, two Barnfield staff members, two from Onset Trust and a Bedfordshire fireman.
The girls helped the paramedics teach first aid by acting our procedures.
They also gave out sports equipment, clothing, mosquito nets, washing powder, soap and salt which they’d collected and sorted in Luton prior to their departure.
The youngsters were entered for YOPEY by Barnfield South community cohesion co-ordinator Marielle Jewels.
She said: “The first few days were a culture shock but by the end the girls had enjoyed the experience and realised how lucky they were.”
They will attend the awards ceremony at the University of Bedfordshire on Sunday (December 16) when they will meet a representative of the Queen and other VIPs.
They will also stand a chance of winning £800, part of a £2,000 prize pot put up by sponsors including The Jordans & Ryvita Company and Woodfines Solicitors.
> For more information visit www.yopey.org