What goes into a 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.

Alice, who volunteered in Namibia, told us about what inspired her Community Report and what she got out of creating it:

Alice during her Namibia gap year

Alice volunteering during her Namibia gap year

“Congratulations to all the 2014/15 Volunteers who received their One Awards certificates! It’s incredible to have formal recognition for the journey that started on Selection, one that will have been completely different for every volunteer. Equally, I’m sure the qualification means something slightly different to everyone. I doubt filling in the One Awards paperwork was anyone’s favourite job last year but it was endlessly valuable in getting you to think about the community you were living in. The award helps you take a step back, reflect on what you’ve experienced so far and set yourself goals for the coming months. My year flew by and it’s so good to have a record of my thoughts and feelings periodically over the 12 months.

“For me, and I’m sure for those who were able to complete them, the Community Report was the most valuable part of the qualification. Without the award I doubt I would have taken the time to produce anything close to my Community Report, and even with it I very nearly didn’t. It took me a long time to get started as I was not keen on the idea of writing a ‘report’. However, a Community Report doesn’t have to be a formal report or essay and as soon as I got going the study wrote itself.

“It’s so difficult to choose what to write about with so few restrictions. With the option to focus on any aspect of your community, on any scale and presented in any way it’s hard to know where to begin. What finally clarified it for me was thinking about what I wanted to take home. What about my project did I want to share and for those back home to understand?

“I lived in Otjikondo, a small farm school in Namibia with no more than 300 people in the village, 240 of which were the school children. I had never experienced such a small and close knit community. The nearest towns were an hour in each direction with not much but bush in between. What made my year were the people; the children I learnt so much from, the friends I made, the family I became a part of and the home I found. You can show someone photos and relate stories but it’s hard to put a person into words. Show them a photo of a child you taught, looked after and cared about and all they will see is a face, a child with a nice smile.

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“I was in exactly the same situation when I arrived in Otjikondo. The first day of school, standing in front of everyone at assembly all I saw was a sea of faces staring back at me. At first you learn a face, a name, a personality, a background, a story. The point of my Community Report was to share a handful of these stories, to give someone else an insight into the people that make Otjikondo.

“I produced eight individual photo books about eight different children. The front page was a photo of them, the next their name, age, tribe, language, family, likes, dislikes, aspirations and fears. It got more and more personal with every page. You get to know the children through the books the same way I got to know them through the year. Hopefully it provides a snapshot of my project that I was unable to put into words.

“Having something tangible to bring home and share with friends and family is incredible, but mostly the community study is for you. It gives you an excuse to ask the questions you always wanted to or didn’t know how to. It’s an opportunity to dig a little deeper and really learn about the community and country you are living and working in.”