WHILE many teenagers are concerned with money-making schemes to line their own pockets, generous students from schools in Hillingdon and Northwood have focused their energies on a greater cause.
More than 25 budding philanthropists have spent months working on fundraising projects in aid of Wings of Hope, a charity which provides free education to poor and orphaned children in Malawi and India.
The pupils' innovative efforts – ranging from a glittering charity ball to a sponsored silence and baked bean eating contest – were recognised during the Wings of Hope Achievement Award semi-finals, held at the House of Lords last Thursday, March 24.
More than 450 groups from about 150 schools across the country entered the competition, which aims to equip students with transferable skills and instil a strong sense of social responsibility.
Just 34 groups were selected to attend the semi-final and give a presentation about their work, before a panel of judges including Sir David Jason; charity founder Dr R. Sri Ram; vice chairman of Edelman PR, Jackie Cooper; vice chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, Peter Lovatt; and Professor Lord Parekh.
An incredible £16,000 was raised by team Evolution – including Karan Gupta, of Merchant Taylors' School in Northwood; Amar Sehgal, of ACS Hillingdon International School in Hillingdon; and Shivankit Hora, of The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys School in Hertfordshire.
During their colourful presentation including a lively saxophone performance, the trio explained how they set up a huge charity gala including a fashion show, which received coverage in major Asian publications and television networks.
Amar said: "We have had so much fun and it feels fantastic to make a difference by helping less fortunate children to achieve an education."
Meanwhile, team Nothing's Impossible, from Abbotsfield and Swakeleys Post 16 Centre in Hillingdon, lived up to their name with school projects including selling candy canes and organising a fancy dress day inspired by stereotypes.
The team of five – Georgia Allen, Caitlin Mulcahy, Hannah Branchflower, Hazel Dearsley, and Amy Brown - raised almost £300.
Hazel said: "Today has been nerve-wracking but also very exciting and we are very proud to have raised both money and awareness for such a great cause."
Team Silver Lining, made up of six pupils from Merchant Taylors' and St Helen's School in Northwood, hosted a charity gig as well as completing 'random acts of kindness' including donating food to the homeless. They raised more than £1,100.
The group – including Randall, Emilio Ianucci, Josh Yap, Aileen Wang, Pooja Patel and Rachel Hallett, also told of an amusing mishap at a school Christmas fair, when cocktail stick became lodged in a chocolate fountain, to which the judges roared with laughter.
"That is a marvellous idea, I may well use that as inspiration for my next project," Sir David joked.
Team Esperanza – Aneka Sharma, Angela Khanna, Anna Murray, Bansaree Shah, Nirali Patel and Shruti Dorai - another six girls from St Helen's, also held a charity ball, as well as a poetry competition and 'balloon blast' event, raising almost £6,000 in total.
Meanwhile, team Inspiration Through Education - Abirah Jeyakumar, Brintha Rajeswaran, Payal Haria, Priyanka Haria and Sarah Morris - a further five girls from St Helen's, organised a series of sponsored events including a fast, swim, and silence, as well as a Snow White pantomime, generating more than £1,000.
Finally, team Aspire - Prina Kakad, Rowena Cameron, Sarita Thakrar and Shaya Pabarin - again from St Helen's, completed activities including shoe shining, busking, and a tea party with a silent auction and raffle. They collected more than £2,700.
All the groups also came up with 'Speak Out' ideas – ways to improve their local community and beyond – including joining state and private schools for peer to peer mentoring, and a soup kitchen for the homeless.
Sir David told the Gazette: "I am very impressed with all the groups we have seen today.
"It isn't just about how much money was made, it's also the way they approached the project and raised awareness.
"The charity's work struck a chord with me as not only does it help to raise money for developing schools in impoverished areas around the world, it encourages our own school children to use their skills for a charitable cause."
The winners of the Wings of Hope Achievement Award, will be announced at a 'Geek Chic' themed ceremony at Wembley Stadium on April 21. Prizes include work placements with some of the UK's top firms.
For more information, visit www.thewingsofhope.org