ELSWICK teenager Jessica Lynn has scooped the adventure of a lifetime, beating hundreds of other teens to travel to South America.
And the prize means even more to the youngster, as she has battled disability, spent a lot of time in hospital and undergone a great deal of vital surgery throughout her childhood.
Jessica, 16, was born with congenital talipes equinovarus – more commonly referred to as clubfoot – and says she lost count of the number of operations she had “after number 30”.
Without the extensive surgery, Jessica would have been unable to walk.
Jessica, of Roseacre Drive, fought off tough competition from other young people aged 14 to 21 from across the country to win a place on the Journey of a Lifetime Trust (JOLT) 2012 expedition.
The Hodgson schoolgirl will jet off to South America and travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic, through Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil.
She will complete her GCSEs this summer, before joining the group in July to take part in the adventure.
Jessica said: “I’m already reading up about where I’m going, learning about the Incas and about the different cultures in the places we’re going to.
“I’ve been on holiday before, but only as far as the Canary Islands.
“I never thought I’d be able to do anything like this.
“I spent much of my childhood in hospital and missed a lot of school and had to be taught at home.
“Because of the medication and going to hospital, I wasn’t able to take part in the activities in school, or even PE, so being chosen for a trip like this means so much.
“I’d love to go travelling, but didn’t think I’d be able to. The trip will be the start of something really exciting for me.
“I will benefit hugely from going as it will help boost my confidence and strengthen my legs through the activities and travelling.”
Jessica was encouraged to put forward her application for the dream trip by her form tutor Jane Wade.
She was then shortlisted and got the place after an interview in Middlesex in February.
Mrs Wade said: “Many young people who have been through the difficulties Jessica has been through became defined by their difficulties and trauma. Jessica has never been like that.
“She has always expected others to treat her just as they would anybody else.
“Jessica never complains about her pain; she just gets on with enjoying life as much as she can, with a smile on her face.
“She is a compassionate girl who deeply cares about others around her, and is always one of the first to offer support if anyone is feeling low.
“I know Jessica has struggled with confidence around new people, and I hope this trip will help her develop the confidence she needs in this area.”
Jessica had to raise at least £650 to take part in the trip, but has already smashed her target thanks to family and friends.
She plans to raise more money for JOLT and has already done a sponsored bike ride.
n To sponsor her, log on to www.justgiving.com/Jessica-Lynn.