December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. At Project Trust we’re marking the day by announcing the winner of our 2014/15 Community Report prize.

Project Trust Gap Year South Africa

Anna Kell’s Community Report

As part of their overseas placement and Foundation Year in Global Volunteering and Citizenship, Project Trust Volunteers complete a Community Report. Community Reports can take any form – an essay, fictional writing, visual art – as long as it shows analysis of the community and culture the Volunteer has been living in for the past year.

Project Trust’s 2014/15 Community Report prize winner is Anna Kell, who volunteered in Helen Bishop Home in South Africa. Helen Bishop Home cares for young people with cerebral palsy and spinabifida, amongst other disabilities. Project Trust Volunteers at Helen Bishop Home help with the basic day-to-day care of the young people, assist with hydrotherapy and physio under the supervision of the project host, run extracurricular activities and teach basic English and Maths.

Anna’s Community Report told the stories of two fictional children with disabilities, one who grew up in South Africa and was cared for at Helen Bishop Home and one who grew up in the UK, in the form of a graphic novel. The story of the child in South Africa is an amalgamation of true stories Anna heard throughout her year volunteering.

Project Trust Gap Year South Africa

Anna Kell’s Community Report

Anna told us about how she made her Community Report and why she chose to share the stories of children with disabilities:

“It took me a long time to appreciate what a Community Report was really about, and I didn’t finish it until I returned home. I had all these stories and such a wide and varied experience that I didn’t really know how to convey all my thoughts and ideas. I knew I wanted to do something health related, and I wanted to do something about my project itself. Looking back it was always kind of obvious I was going to write about the kids I worked with – the most meaningful thing I could do with my Community Report was raise awareness about their lives.

“I said in the introduction of my Community Report: “None of their thoughts are heard, not always because they can’t speak, but because no-one really takes the time to listen.” As I started putting my ideas together, I realised just how much I learnt from and about my kids. I feel so privileged to have been able to listen to and be a friend to them.

Project Trust Gap Year Volunteer, Anna Kell in South Africa

Anna Kell at work at Helen Bishop Home

“To me, completing a Community Report wasn’t just about telling other people what the kids were like and what they go through, but for myself too, and I found putting their stories together extremely moving. I had never really thought about the scale of things – at work, I helped individual children achieve their goals and overcome their struggles, but it wasn’t until stepping back and looking at the big picture that the wider issues relating to and all around disability hit me hard.

“Working to help provide day-to-day residential and medical care for people living with disabilities is an intense occupation in itself. What causes the isolation and marginalisation of disabled children is such a huge issue on top of that I think sometimes my mind just sort of skipped over it. The really hard-hitting quotes in my Community Report are all true stories I either heard first-hand or from someone else who experienced it. There are so many holes in society that contribute to the children at Helen Bishop Home being in the situation which they are; prejudice, poverty, healthcare, education, race, economic disparity… as our wonderful host and incredible friend Naomi says of the home and what it does: “We’re just a sticking plaster.”

“When I was writing my Community Report moments from my year seemed to just fly onto the paper. Later I had the idea of writing another story about a child from a very different background to a child at Helen Bishop Home, and I think that part really does bring home exactly what Project Trust taught me: everyone has problems, everyone is human, everyone needs certain things, everyone is the same the world over. But what most often separates us is opportunity.

“I will always be proud of my year, and always grateful for having the opportunity to work with the children at Helen Bishop Home, who are just beyond words. I’ve never missed something so much as their faces in the morning, or freshly bathed and sleepy in their cots, wolfing down lunch, laughing at us, themselves, smiling at the world. They are all kinds of wonderful and they don’t even know it.

“To the kids at Helen Bishop Home – I love you to the moon and back, and I hope I helped make your voices heard, even just a little bit. It was worth it even if only one person now understands just a little bit better.”

Find out more about Project Trust’s One Awards accredited Level Three Foundation Year in Global Volunteering and Citizenship