Girl Guides have gone to extreme lengths in their quest to help poor children in Africa get an education.

The group of 18 Heron Rangers and their leaders based in Wanstead are each attempting to raise £2,300 to travel to Zambia and Malawi to volunteer for charity The Book Bus, which aims to improve literacy rates among the young.

The girls have undertaken an intense, and sometimes unusual, programme of fundraising which included some sleeping in cardboard boxes under the stars throughout November.

Another fundraising effort involved helping to pack bags in a busy Waitrose supermarket.

And Sophie Longstaff, 15, rented out her bedroom to a foreign student for eight weeks in the summer, while Miriam Gibson, 16, of Spratt Hall Road, Wanstead, took up baby-sitting to raise cash.

Explaining their motivation, Miss Gibson said: "Guiding is all about giving back to the community and I thought this would give me a chance to help others.

"There were some weeks where I was out six nights a week baby-sitting. It was tiring but worth it.

"I am a bit worried about the culture shock, the heat and the food – but I am more worried about the injections before I go because I’m terrified of needles."

Guide leader Sharon Applin, 50, said the trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the girls.

She added: "This will be a massive challenge for the girls.

"They will be coming face-to-face with children who have been affected by HIV and Aids and living the way these children live for two weeks."

The girls will be working with small groups of around 10 children, reading stories and helping them with their English.

Guide Ellie Hawkins, 16, of Beverley Crescent, Woodford Green, said: "I don’t really know how I will react to what I will see when I get there.

"It’s going to be a completely different experience to anything I will have done before.

"I am quite excited and intrigued at the same time."

To help raise further cash for the trip, the girls have organised a barn dance on March 16 at St Gabriel’s Church Hall in Aldersbrook, and are asking budding writers to write a short tale for £1 for the chance to win a day out at a UK attraction.