A GROUP of Huntingdonshire students hope to bring football and friendship to a remote Gambian village - but they need to raise £20,000 first.

Huntingdonshire Regional College students George Collett, Britt Ciarla, Scott Rogers, Michaela Dortch, Liam Robinson, Dion di Cataldo, Leah Barnes, Naomi Day, Amy Thomas, Kellen Moritz and Tom Spark plan to travel to the Busumbala area of the country in March to help build a school and promote 'the beautiful game.'

But before they set off for the two-week expedition, the students must raise money for their flights, accommodation and living expenses while in the country.

As part of their fundraising efforts the team will be doing a sponsored cycle ride on January 19 when they will attempt to cover the equivalent distance from Huntingdon to Gambia - more than 3,000 miles - in 24 hours.

In addition, each student must raise £300 individually towards the trip, while at the same time ensure they stay on top of their studies, hold down part-time jobs and juggle their sporting commitments.

But project member Scott, 17, of Huntingdon, believes the trip, which has been organised through the Lisa Kent Memorial Trust, will be 'life-changing.'

"I think this trip will show us we are really lucky. It is going to make you appreciate your own life. It is going to be a different country entirely.

"I'm looking forward to teaching sport and playing sport as well. I think they will have the basic things, but we are planning to take a lot of stuff with us - clothing and sports equipment."

Amy, 17, of St Neots is keen to go because she hopes she will make a difference.

"There is not much you can do from here, but having an opportunity to go out there and feel helpful is great.

"I think it will be such a good experience. Seeing how they live the way they do, I think will make me appreciate life more."

It is the first time the college has organised such an ambitious trip, so excitement is high.

All ten students were selected out of the sport and exercise department to take part in the project after writing a short piece on why they should go.

They have been fundraising for the challenge since early September and have so far secured support from the Huntingdon Cromwell Rotary Club. Fellow students have supported the group through a weekly fundraising stall, and local businesses have also been approached for sponsorship.

Jill Dickinson, head of student services, said fundraisers at the Lisa Kent Memorial Trust were keen for the college to get involved because of its strong footballing ethos.

The college's men's football team has been named national college champions for two years running.

She said: "You never what it will be like til you get there. We are just so looking forward to seeing those youngsters."

Pincipal Susanne Stent said "This is a fantastic opportunity for our students who will have the experience of a lifetime and the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of the young people of the Gambia".

INFORMATION: The group will be leaving on March 9 and returning on March 23. If you would like to help with sponsorship call Ms Dickinson on 01480 379102.