A FORMER Lomond School pupil is preparing to swap Cardross for Cambodia next month as part of an international volunteering scheme.

Finlay Gray, 18, has signed up to the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) programme and will head out to Asia at the beginning of September.

Spending three months in Cheung Kreav, central Cambodia, Finlay will work on a variety of educational projects in the local community as part of the International Citizens’ Service (ICS) livelihoods team.

VSO brings people from all over the world together to tackle marginalisation and poverty and Finlay believes the experience will be a life-changing one.

LATEST HEADLINES: 'Cut back on email to reduce staff stress', says Helensburgh councillor

He said: “Fifth year at school didn’t quite go how I wanted because of a knee injury I picked up from playing rugby.

“That meant I had to sit my Highers in S6 and I came to the realisation that it would be best to take a gap year as I didn’t receive any offers from universities.

“I thought rather than spending it at home I was keen to get out and see the world and go travelling. I went for an interview with VSO in London in July and that’s when it all became real.

“I’m expecting it to be a huge culture shock. We had a talk from someone who just got back from Cambodia and they said the food is very basic and the weight loss is quite extreme. She had lost about two stone, which is quite worrying.

“We heard they don’t use toilet paper over there and we won’t be using cars, buses or trains, we’ll be given a bicycle to use for the whole trip.

LATEST HEADLINES: Men arrested after drug searches in Helensburgh and Shandon

“We’ve had training and heard all about the dangers over there and what to expect.

“It will give me a new perspective on life, a lot of people say it’s changed how they look at the world.”

In preparation for his trip, Finlay has organised several fun activities to raise funds, including a 76-mile kayak and paddle the length of Loch Lomond and a cycle around the peninsula.

He has also spent a week living off of £1 of food a day and said while it will be a struggle adapting to his new environment, he is looking forward to the challenge.

“That was difficult”, he said. “Over there they don’t have the same diet, so that was helpful for exposing me to that side of things.

“In the house you’ve got all the temptations of chocolate and sweets and I had to hold back on them.

“I am pretty lucky to live where I do and to have had this life where everything we need, we’ve got. We don’t realise how lucky we are to have a lot of the basic things we take for granted.

“It’s an opportunity to meet other people as well and I’m excited for it.”

LATEST HEADLINES: Helensburgh golfers give a big boost to Parklands School

Finlay is almost two-thirds of the way towards his fund-raising target of £1,500, recently boosted by a donation by the Helensburgh and District Round Table.

To donate, go to justgiving.com/fundraising/finlay-gray-vso.