Firm's collapse leaves gap-year teens stranded

Student volunteers told to pay thousands – or pack their bags and leave
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More than 150 British teenagers have been left stranded across the globe after the company that organised their gap-year projects went bust.

A total of 163 young people working in countries including Ghana, Ecuador, Honduras and South Africa were told on 13 March that Global Xperience had gone into administration. They have been told they must pack their bags and leave if they refuse to pay thousands of pounds to remain on the projects, despite already paying the company in full.

Most of the travellers are little older than school-leaving age and, in some cases, they have had to leave their secure accommodation to stay at hostels after being unable to pay, while their parents try to find them a flight home. Although they will be able to reclaim any money they spend from the Association of British Travel Agents, many have been unable to produce the money at short notice.

Elise Facer-Childs, 18, from Reading, paid Global Xperience £2,000 to do a three-month placement at a hospital in the Ghanaian capital of Accra. She and 16 other volunteers were informed by email that the company had gone bust, and were later told that they would have to pay another £2,000 in cash if they wanted to stay in their secure compound.

Ms Facer-Childs and several others refused to pay and were forced to move to a budget Salvation Army hostel. She now plans to stay in Accra for three weeks, when her parents are flying out to meet her.

Speaking from Ghana yesterday, she said: "It's just been a blur, everyone just can't believe what's happening. We haven't had any support from anybody, so everyone's just absolutely knackered. The accommodation we're staying in is much worse. All of the rooms are shared with strangers so we don't know who is staying in our room from one day to the next, and we have all our luggage, passports and money with us.

"We have to carry our stuff with us all the time, which is quite risky on the streets of Accra. In the gap-year compound we were behind barbed- wire fences and had a guard, but it's nowhere near as safe here. Most of the beds have got bedbugs too, but frankly we're just happy to have somewhere to sleep."