They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but Ruth, Jon, Jake, Rosie and Beth Dowell have taken this to a new level, as all five – two parents and three children – have all completed a year with Project Trust. In this edition of Humans of Project Trust, Mum of the family Ruth reflects on the love, loss, hardship and triumph that come with a year overseas.

“Jon and I first met at a Project Volunteer party in South Africa, Port St John’s – on the Wild Coast, in what was then Transkei – a ‘black homeland’ created by the apartheid South Africa for people of colour to live in when we were both 18 years old. There were twelve Volunteers in the country based in schools and hospitals – Jon and I were both in hospitals about 4 to 10 hours apart, depending on the roads and the rains. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island and the politics around us were extraordinary. We split up as a couple on return to the UK but stayed in touch. Jon trained as a doctor in Nottingham and I trained as a nurse in London – we got back together in 1987 and married in 1990. We are now 55 years old – our shared Project Trust year has shaped us and our relationship and the way we have parented.

Humans of Project Trust - Ruth and Jon Dowell

Ruth and Jon Dowell, Transkei 1981-82

“Our memories from our year in South Africa include being accepted into a very poor community and learning that poverty does not exclude joy. We made genuine friends, learned to speak Xhosa with clicks, saw life and death up close, dealt with a cholera epidemic at the hospital and helped the struggling British GPs try and run an understaffed and under-resourced hospital. I saw triplets successfully delivered and Jon helped in orthopaedic surgery, having to run out and get his own screwdriver from his workshop to assist in the operation. He even created the first ambulance in Transkei.

“I remember a sense of freedom and independence which must have influenced how we formed as people. As Jon said – “Hitching a few thousand miles around sub Saharan Africa teaches you a thing or two.” We still have many very genuine friendships from that time. The experience reinforced our decisions to work in the health sector on return. Some fellow Volunteers changed their life choices as a result of their Project Trust year.

Humans of Project Trust - Jake Dowell

Transkei ambulance article

“We are Project Trust Parents – Jake went to Guyana in 2012, Rosie to Uganda in 2013 and Beth is still in Nepal as I write this. Choosing to go away with Project Trust was different for all of us – there have been very memorable highs and lows. We felt very strongly that we must not pressure the kids to go away with Project Trust – it is certainly not right for everyone. I have asked the kids what their thoughts are about this article and they all responded differently:

Humans of Project Trust - Jake Dowell

Jake Dowell, Guyana 2012-13

Jake: “I can’t see any reason not to go away for a year and have a great adventure! Project Trust is the opportunity to do your growing up and leaving home in a fun, exciting way; experiencing a new culture that will challenge and change your outlook on life in a way that university can’t.”

Humans of Project Trust - Rosie Dowell

Rosie Dowell, Uganda 2013-14

Rosie: “It produces a shared connection and a strong community amongst Volunteers. Everyone has a totally unique personal experience. All these individuals work towards the same goal, so you’re doing it for yourself but also helping others and inadvertently we all become part of the big global community.”

Humans of Project Trust - Beth Dowell

Beth Dowell, Nepal 2017-18

Beth is still away in Nepal and is in no position to reflect currently. One of her last messages was “Dad, I now laugh in the face of dysentery!”

“Fundraising is definitely a huge part of the Project Trust experience. It is very hard work. I think Jon and I had to raise £900 back in the day. That is certainly when I learnt about that big book – “The Directory of Charities and Grant Making Trusts.” We must have earned thousands of pounds from that source over the years. We all had jobs and all did one big sponsored fundraiser each. We’ve collectively fasted, climbed inaccessible pinnacles, Tough Muddered, and scaled the height of Everest in Munros. We’ve run charity shops and dinners and cake sales. The money always comes in eventually but when you’re starting out it can be very daunting.

“This time last year we were getting ready to send Beth off to Nepal. Saying hello, goodbye and crying at airports is a very large part of Project Trust! We feel very jealous of them as they go off on their own adventures but how we miss them too. I have supported many, many Project Trust parents over the years that are missing their “babies.” One mother contacted me to say that she was making up her son’s bed for his imminent return and just dissolved into exhausted, happy tears. The year is tough for parents.

Humans of Project Trust - Beth Dowell

The Dowells

“I am enormously proud of the children and how Project Trust has helped them grow up. We all had to deal with quite significant problems and challenges whilst away: primitive living conditions, fetching water, cooking facilities, toilets, health issues far from home, seeing life and death up close, having little money. There were tricky interpersonal issues, cultural issues, apartheid, racism, political corruption, cheating in schools, corporal punishment, religion, elections. Not all of us were happy all of the time, but I think we have all developed very “Can Do” attitudes to life as a result.

“I feel I see the ‘big picture’ much more. Sometimes aspects of the “Western” world politics seem so narrow. To assume that “our way” is the best way, or the only way, is very arrogant. We learnt that poverty is not anyone’s fault. Being born into poverty or wealth is a matter of luck and not a right.

“We learnt that holding a British passport is a valuable thing. We learnt that the NHS is a wonderful thing. We learnt that education is the most precious thing to give a child.

Ruth & Jon Dowell visiting Coll, 2017

Ruth and Jon Dowell visiting Coll, 2017

“There is a big world out there.

“Project Trust is not for everyone but at least think about it. Be bold, this is your time. Try new things. You have nothing to lose and plenty to gain. Get out there and live your life. Don’t let your parents put you off or indeed push you into going away. This is your decision and your year.

“Project Trust will add value to your life in very many ways.”

Humans of Project Trust - The Dowells

‘I am enormously proud of the children and how Project Trust has helped them grow up. We all had to deal with quite significant problems and challenges whilst away… Not all of us were happy all of the time, but I think we have all developed very ‘Can Do’ attitudes to life as a result.”

Humans of Project Trust - The Dowells

‘I am enormously proud of the children and how Project Trust has helped them grow up. We all had to deal with quite significant problems and challenges whilst away… Not all of us were happy all of the time, but I think we have all developed very ‘Can Do’ attitudes to life as a result.”

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but Ruth, Jon, Jake, Rosie and Beth Dowell have taken this to a new level, as all five – two parents and three children – have all completed a year with Project Trust. In this edition of Humans of Project Trust, Mum of the family Ruth reflects on the love, loss, hardship and triumph that come with a year overseas.

“Jon and I first met at a Project Volunteer party in South Africa, Port St John’s – on the Wild Coast, in what was then Transkei – a ‘black homeland’ created by the apartheid South Africa for people of colour to live in when we were both 18 years old. There were twelve Volunteers in the country based in schools and hospitals – Jon and I were both in hospitals about 4 to 10 hours apart, depending on the roads and the rains. Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island and the politics around us were extraordinary. We split up as a couple on return to the UK but stayed in touch. Jon trained as a doctor in Nottingham and I trained as a nurse in London – we got back together in 1987 and married in 1990. We are now 55 years old – our shared Project Trust year has shaped us and our relationship and the way we have parented.

Humans of Project Trust - Ruth and Jon Dowell

Ruth and Jon Dowell, Transkei 1981-82

“Our memories from our year in South Africa include being accepted into a very poor community and learning that poverty does not exclude joy. We made genuine friends, learned to speak Xhosa with clicks, saw life and death up close, dealt with a cholera epidemic at the hospital and helped the struggling British GPs try and run an understaffed and under-resourced hospital. I saw triplets successfully delivered and Jon helped in orthopaedic surgery, having to run out and get his own screwdriver from his workshop to assist in the operation. He even created the first ambulance in Transkei.

“I remember a sense of freedom and independence which must have influenced how we formed as people. As Jon said – “Hitching a few thousand miles around sub Saharan Africa teaches you a thing or two.” We still have many very genuine friendships from that time. The experience reinforced our decisions to work in the health sector on return. Some fellow Volunteers changed their life choices as a result of their Project Trust year.

Humans of Project Trust - Jake Dowell

Transkei ambulance article

“We are Project Trust Parents – Jake went to Guyana in 2012, Rosie to Uganda in 2013 and Beth is still in Nepal as I write this. Choosing to go away with Project Trust was different for all of us – there have been very memorable highs and lows. We felt very strongly that we must not pressure the kids to go away with Project Trust – it is certainly not right for everyone. I have asked the kids what their thoughts are about this article and they all responded differently:

Humans of Project Trust - Jake Dowell

Jake Dowell, Guyana 2012-13

Jake: “I can’t see any reason not to go away for a year and have a great adventure! Project Trust is the opportunity to do your growing up and leaving home in a fun, exciting way; experiencing a new culture that will challenge and change your outlook on life in a way that university can’t.”

Humans of Project Trust - Rosie Dowell

Rosie Dowell, Uganda 2013-14

Rosie: “It produces a shared connection and a strong community amongst Volunteers. Everyone has a totally unique personal experience. All these individuals work towards the same goal, so you’re doing it for yourself but also helping others and inadvertently we all become part of the big global community.”

Humans of Project Trust - Beth Dowell

Beth Dowell, Nepal 2017-18

Beth is still away in Nepal and is in no position to reflect currently. One of her last messages was “Dad, I now laugh in the face of dysentery!”

“Fundraising is definitely a huge part of the Project Trust experience. It is very hard work. I think Jon and I had to raise £900 back in the day. That is certainly when I learnt about that big book – “The Directory of Charities and Grant Making Trusts.” We must have earned thousands of pounds from that source over the years. We all had jobs and all did one big sponsored fundraiser each. We’ve collectively fasted, climbed inaccessible pinnacles, Tough Muddered, and scaled the height of Everest in Munros. We’ve run charity shops and dinners and cake sales. The money always comes in eventually but when you’re starting out it can be very daunting.

“This time last year we were getting ready to send Beth off to Nepal. Saying hello, goodbye and crying at airports is a very large part of Project Trust! We feel very jealous of them as they go off on their own adventures but how we miss them too. I have supported many, many Project Trust parents over the years that are missing their “babies.” One mother contacted me to say that she was making up her son’s bed for his imminent return and just dissolved into exhausted, happy tears. The year is tough for parents.

Humans of Project Trust - Beth Dowell

The Dowells

“I am enormously proud of the children and how Project Trust has helped them grow up. We all had to deal with quite significant problems and challenges whilst away: primitive living conditions, fetching water, cooking facilities, toilets, health issues far from home, seeing life and death up close, having little money. There were tricky interpersonal issues, cultural issues, apartheid, racism, political corruption, cheating in schools, corporal punishment, religion, elections. Not all of us were happy all of the time, but I think we have all developed very “Can Do” attitudes to life as a result.

“I feel I see the ‘big picture’ much more. Sometimes aspects of the “Western” world politics seem so narrow. To assume that “our way” is the best way, or the only way, is very arrogant. We learnt that poverty is not anyone’s fault. Being born into poverty or wealth is a matter of luck and not a right.

“We learnt that holding a British passport is a valuable thing. We learnt that the NHS is a wonderful thing. We learnt that education is the most precious thing to give a child.

Ruth & Jon Dowell visiting Coll, 2017

Ruth and Jon Dowell visiting Coll, 2017

“There is a big world out there.

“Project Trust is not for everyone but at least think about it. Be bold, this is your time. Try new things. You have nothing to lose and plenty to gain. Get out there and live your life. Don’t let your parents put you off or indeed push you into going away. This is your decision and your year.

“Project Trust will add value to your life in very many ways.”