I’ll be honest with you: camping is not really my thing. Four-star hotels with king-sized beds and a spa – I’m there.
Shivering in a sleeping bag below a damp piece of nylon – I’ll leave that to Bear Grylls, thank you.
So what on earth has possessed me to put my cosy life in Lancashire on hold for three months and go and live in the most basic conditions imaginable in rural India? Er, good question.
I stumbled upon Raleigh International by chance online one afternoon and their advert stopped me in my tracks.
It explained they were looking for volunteers to run a blog about their work, which involved taking groups of young British people to India, Borneo and Costa Rica and getting them to work with small communities to deliver what they need the most – whether that be a new school, sanitation or an elephant-proof fence to protect crops.
The idea is that the community benefits but the young volunteers, aged 17 to 24, also gain valuable skills: self-confidence, teamwork, a global perspective...
I’d always wanted to do some voluntary work so I gave them a bell and before I knew it, I was on an assessment weekend in Sussex on the wettest day I could care to remember.
“It’ll be a chance for us to get to know you and for you to see what we’re all about,” promised Claire, the lovely Raleigh administrator, reassuringly over the phone.
Within minutes of arriving at the Sussex scout camp, it became clear they weren’t going to be testing my blogging abilities.
Instead, a 17-hour day of challenges to test my leadership and teamwork skills lay ahead.
Raleigh won’t want me to give away all the colourful details and spoil things for potential future volunteers, but let’s just say I spent some time chest-deep in a freezing cold river and then a night sleeping (not very well) under a piece of wet tarpaulin with seven others.
We were told we escaped lightly with just torrential rain: the group on the previous assessment weekend had to camp in the snow.
Miraculously, I went away from the experience a) alive and b) wanting to sign up if they would have me.
I got a call back saying while Raleigh had enough volunteer bloggers for 2012, they could offer me a place as a project manager in southern India from September to December.
I didn’t hesitate. I was impressed with Raleigh’s aims and values and decided it was time for an adventure.
And so I find myself facing the prospect of three months living out of a rucksack, washing in a river and cooking on a Trangia stove.
There won’t be electricity or running water but there will be mosquitos and snakes.
It’s going to be a huge challenge, not just for me as a manager but for the group of young Venturer volunteers from the UK, Holland and India who will be working on projects including building eco-sanitation toilets, laying water pipes and trekking through unspoilt countryside.
But I hope there will be rewards too, from learning more about a wonderfully rich culture to helping the Venturers challenge themselves and fulfil their potential.
People keep telling me I’m brave. Excited and terrified might be a better description. But I’m going to give it my best shot. Wish me luck!.
To find out more about the project or sponsor Jenny, log on to www.justgiving.com/Jenny-Simpson For more on Raleigh International, log on to www.raleighinternational.org