Since July Project Trust’s 2015/16 volunteers have been to Coll for Training, traveled to their new homes and started their volunteers roles. Here are five things they’ve done at the start of their gap years.

Came to Coll for Training – Brodie Heath, South Africa:

When we arrived at the Hebridean Centre, Project Trust’s headquarters, we were given time to settle in to our dorms then it was time for lessons to begin. After a day of training and dinner we were given time to spend getting to know each other. Everyone made their way down to the beach as the weather had cleared up and the sun was now shining. I was expecting the usual rough grey beach with sharp rocks and smelly sea weed as I know only too well living in Scotland but this beach was something else. The sand was golden and the sea was light blue as if it was something straight out of an exotic travel catalogue.

Project Trust volunteers enjoy some down time on the beach during Training

Project Trust volunteers enjoy some down time on the beach during Training

The next day everyone was woken by the kitchen staff who marched down the hallway banging pots and pans to get everyone out of their bed. After breakfast it was straight into more lessons and workshops to prepare us for our year overseas. We were given training on planning classes and using effective teaching methods. The lessons on teaching made me realise the amount of effort that goes into planning lessons and how busy a job it must be to be a full time teacher.

Through the rest of the lessons throughout the week I gained a much deeper insight into where it is that I will be staying, what job it is that I’ll be doing and how to be effective in a new and very unfamiliar role. The workshops made me more confident that I will be able to cope with the difficult task of working with children with disabilities and that nobody is brilliant at the beginning of their year; it is a long process of development.

We were taught about how to stay safe in a country which is different to the UK and about the different aspects of South African culture that we should get to know and respect. At the end of the week I felt as though I was going to explode with new information but I felt a hundred times more confident that I will be able to cope overseas.

Arrived in country – Chloe Campbell, Cambodia:

We have made it to Cambodia! Our first week here had been absolutely jam-packed and has given us the best introduction to this beautiful country. We arrived mid-afternoon on the 24th of August after over 24 hours of travelling, and were met by our lovely country Representative, Imma, a very humid 34 degree heat and lots of rain (in typical rainy season style).

cambodia

After a good night’s sleep and a much needed breakfast we headed off to our first Khmer lesson. Taking our shoes off at the door (a Cambodian custom), we headed upstairs to our white-tiled classroom to begin. We have Khmer lessons 4 hours a day, 6 days a week which is quite intense but so much fun. After a week, and the patience of our wonderful teachers Kim Leang and Kinal, we have learnt how to; introduce ourselves and ask questions about other people, count, name fruits, colours and clothing, and barter in markets.

Although Khmer is a difficult language to learn, there will be so much value in knowing it after we move to more rural Cambodia. Even though I have previously learnt languages at school, these lessons have given me a new perspective on just how difficult learning a language completely different to your own is, giving me a greater understanding on how difficult it will be for the kids I will be teaching English to.

Settled into their new homes – Isla Kitching, Honduas:

At Miqueas, my project, there are 39 children, although we have only met 35 since the four eldest attend boarding school. Melody and Jacob, our hosts, are from the States and have legal custody and guardianship of all the children who are being raised as a large family unit instead of as orphans in an orphanage. All the children call Melody and Jacob Mami and Papi and by day they spend a lot of time with the Tias (nannys) who supervise, cook and do some activities with them etc. The volunteers (us) teach classes, help with homework and run extracurricular activities although we have been eased in slowly. All the children speak Spanish and we are picking up new words and phrases each day although it’s very difficult to understand them and they often laugh when we try to speak Spanish to them.

hond walls

Innes (my partner) and I are staying in the house that Melody and Jacob live in. We have our own room and bathroom (our shower is cold which is brilliant because it’s so hot here and it’s virtually just a hose sticking out the wall so it has been rightfully named José…”ha ha ha” I hear you say…).  We’ve got a weekly food allowance, but when it was announced that we were going on our first shopping trip we had made no list or plan and had no idea where to start. Turns out we didn’t buy enough vegetables and a few other things and meals so far have been omelette, egg-fried rice (an interesting experience) and cheese wraps. Next time we go shopping we’ll be more prepared!

Got to work – Catriona Forsyth, Guyana:

Paramakatoi Secondary school is a central secondary school which serves most of Region 8. The students who attend walk in from all over the region, and so many of them stay in the dorms during term time and return home during the holidays. There are therefore always kids around to entertain us after school, either from the dorm or just the village, and we love it when we have students knocking on our door to visit us in the evenings.

This year, I will be teaching integrated science to Grade 8 and 9. I have three Grade 8 classes and three Grade 9 classes, so I teach a 33 lesson week (each lesson is 35 minutes). I also take a form class for registration (a Grade 8 class) and I am loving getting to know the students.

Catriona Forsyth volunteering in Guyana

Catriona Forsyth volunteering in Guyana

Classrooms here are bare; I have one blackboard, some chalk, limited textbooks and 36 students sitting in front of me ready to learn! This can be challenging at times, but I’m trying to think of some exciting activities to make science as fun as it can be, and have already had the kids make posters which I have stuck on the walls to brighten them up. After our poster lesson, I had one of my grade 8’s said to me: “I want to do science again now and all the time,” and I think it’s great that the kids seem to be enjoying the lessons.

I have realised It will take me time to really be comfortable in my role as a teacher but I feel that I am becoming more and more confident each day.

Went on a school trip – Elena Martin, India:

On the 4th of October a walk is being held in honour of National Sight Day and to raise awareness about blindness and Devnar School for the Blind, where I’m volunteering. During this event a number of the students will be performing various acts, so we went to the stage at Hi-Tech City to practice.

Devnar

At one end of the blocked off road there was a very enthusiastic lady engaging a sizeable crowd in a Zumba fitness lesson, while the other end of the road curved into the horizon. We headed towards the stage and were greeted by the enthusiastic lady who had one of the older boys onto the stage within seconds to explain why we were there. After the introductions four more older boys took to the stage and performed the most amazing dance to a remix of Hindi and Telugu songs and their energy and enthusiasm seemed to shock the whole crowd who, I think, had been expecting something a little slower or more simple from visually impaired teenagers. I felt immensely proud of them when they finished and they completely deserved the large round of applause they received. Next up was a little girl from 2nd grade who sang a beautiful song is Telugu and then Sana and Sri Gangga completed the set with another song. I was more than impressed by the confidence these children had, especially in front of such a large crowd.