A group of 15 Islanders are among several hundred volunteers nationwide who have immersed themselves in working holidays with a difference.

For them it is not about dry stone-walling in the Cotswolds, or picking hops in Kent. Instead they travel to one of five Third World countries under the banner of Aid Camps International, to help make a massive difference to under-privileged children.

When Brighstone couple Marianne and Ian Johnson saw a small advert in a paper 10 years ago, looking for volunteers to go to India for three weeks, they wanted to find out more. Soon they began doing work for what was then a new charity, Aid Camps International (AIC), which now works closely alongside Island-based charity Building Schools for Africa.

Marianne, who is now vice chair of AIC, explained why they got involved and how other volunteers have helped make life-changing differences to communities in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cameroon and Malawi. She said: “Ian and I went to India in 2003 to see what it was all about, and when we returned we set ourselves a year to raise the £7,000 needed to build a new school. We raised it in two months, and it has just snowballed for there.

“Basically volunteers, who come from all walks of life, have to raise a certain amount of money for their registration fee and to help finance the project, and they also finance their own flights and ‘keep’ for three weeks they are there, before they travel to the country involved.

“The volunteers work alongside local workmen and live in the village where the school or orphanage is being built. There is a bit of time for sightseeing, and the volunteers and the local people get such a lot from it. We spend three weeks finishing off the build by plastering, painting or whatever else needs to be done before the building is handed over to the community.

“We are amazed and delighted, and through Aid Camps International – a tinycharity run by four trustees and one part-time administrator – there are now 15 people from the Isle of Wight who have gone to five different countries to work on 45 projects.”

Marianne, who is also chair of Building Schools for Africa, says: “It is a working holiday with a difference, and a brilliant one. It gives volunteers the opportunity to visit places they might never normally see.

“We get huge satisfaction from the fact that when we leave a project we are leaving a school or orphanage behind that hopefully will serve children for the next 50 years, and it is something that the community expressed a need for.”

Marianne added: “We are always looking for volunteers, who have to be at least 18 years of age, and anyone interested in becoming involved can contact us through the website www.aidcamps.org or call me on (01983) 740234. There are always projects that people can sign up for.”