"This has been life changing for my son"
16 March 2018 14:44
By Chris McMahon
Chris McMahon shares her thoughts on her son’s (William McMahon) journey to expedition with British Exploring Society and how his expedition to the Peruvian Amazon in 2017 has impacted William since returning home to the UK.
When did you first hear about British Exploring Society?
My son who was 15 at the time, saw an advert on Facebook and said he would like to go; we had never heard of British Exploring Society and nor had any members of our family ever been on an expedition, so this was all very new to us. Our original thoughts were to take a step by step approach and so he applied, had a telephone interview and before we knew it he was offered a place.
Did you encourage William to take part, or were you apprehensive at first?
This was all my son’s idea, he had spoken to us about the expedition, but had found out about it and applied himself. We discussed it at every step - he was very self-motivated and driven to go and so we supported him all the way. He was in Year 11 at school and so it was a nice motivator to get through the year.
I was very apprehensive – I was aware he would be one of the youngest and wasn’t going with anyone he knew, I worried about if he had the necessary skills to survive, but because he was so enthusiastic and driven I didn’t want to stand in his way.
How did they fundraise towards their expedition?
• He participated in Explorer Miles by volunteering at scouts
• He did a sponsored event
• 2 x paper rounds (we matched the money he earned)
• Saved up money from Christmas, birthday presents etc.
• Received sponsorship from our local Rotary Club
Do you think their journey to expedition helped William grow his personal skills?
Absolutely. I think the journey to expedition is as important as the expedition itself. He had to learn to be organised as he was in his GCSE year, so ‘work hard play hard’ was his mantra. Also, British Exploring Society directly liaise with the explorer (although we as parents were informed of this), so this also encouraged him to be organised. He also developed leadership skills by volunteering at Scouts and learning and participating in British Exploring Society’s Explorer Miles social action initiate.
How did you feel when they left for expedition and the limited communication from the expedition?
In the days leading up to his departure and the first few days after, I felt awful – I was anxious, didn’t sleep well and found myself questioning if I had done the right thing by supporting him. After we dropped him off at the airport we found ourselves watching his journey online, and I spent time over the 3 weeks sitting in his bedroom etc. because we had never been apart for that long with no contact. I missed him so much and felt very anxious but I also felt immensely proud of him.
I was aware there would be no contact as we had read all the British Exploring Society’s documentation and had followed all instructions, but this was very difficult (although I think it’s a really good thing). We had been told about the blog and so every day I checked British Exploring Society’s social media and website waiting for some news – the blogs were basic, but it was so nice just to hear something.
How do you feel the expedition has impacted William?
This has been life changing for my son. The young man we picked up at the airport was so different from the one we dropped off 3 weeks earlier – so confident, mature, content and proud. One of his Leaders has been such a positive role model and has had a positive impact on him. I think he feels empowered and believes he can do anything in life.
What has been the single biggest difference you have seen in Willilam?
Difficult to say but I would say his independence and maturity.
What would you say to other parents who may be concerned about their child taking part in an expedition?
Put your anxieties aside, follow the British Exploring Society instructions and support your child. This has been one of the best things my son has ever done and the actual expedition is only part of it. There is also the planning, sourcing and buying the kit, getting all the necessary immunisations and fundraising beforehand and since he has been back he has delivered a presentation to the members of the Rotary and written about his expedition for BE and his experience has even helped him to get a weekend job at his favourite shop!