For the latest instalment of ‘Humans of Project Trust’, we spoke to Returned Volunteer Aydan Stuart (Thailand 08/09) about how his year with Project Trust led to his future job, wife and life in Thailand…
“I was a volunteer in Thailand 08/09. I was at the project Det Udom which ran almost every year from 05/06 to 17/18. I first heard about Project Trust at a school talk at my college. Prior to that I had no idea about Project Trust and never put any thought towards taking a charity based gap year at that time. By the end of the presentation I was convinced. I rushed home that afternoon and sat my parents down and said – I’m going to go away for a year with Project Trust. Although at first they didn’t believe me, after I booked my selection course they saw I was serious, and they got behind me 100%. The rest is history!
“From the first day in my project – where I was fed hot soy milk and fermented fish juice over noodles, thrown into a classroom with no instructions and then paraded around the school like a dancing puppet – I fell in love with Thailand. Every day I learnt new things, tasted new food and discovered a world so different to my own. A world that, ten years later, is so familiar I now call it my home. At my project, I made some lifelong friends, including teachers, students and people I met on my journey. I hope that I was able to inspire my students into learning English and at the very least aspire towards a future beyond their village. I did all I could to show people that even when you have nothing, you can achieve great things. For me, that was the message I wanted to evangelise – given the fact that although already privileged, I was too from a very poor background with few opportunities. Project Trust was a catalyst to a better and more determined life.
Aydan Stuart, Country Representative for Thailand
“My experiences led me to return to the UK and study Thai. During my study exchange year, I met the woman who would, five years later, become my wife. After graduating with a BA in Thai Language, I jumped on the first flight back to Thailand and immediately started working for Chiang Mai University in their English department. In Chiang Mai I soon joined an English language publication (Citylife Chiang Mai) and worked as an editor, translator and journalist for four years. I have recently moved to Bangkok to join an international marketing and branding company.
Project Trust gave me a chance to fulfill my dreams and change my life forever. After several years back in Thailand after graduation, I met Nici Gurney, Country Coordinator for Thailand, who was the Thailand Representative for Project Trust at that time. A position had opened for a deputy and she brought me in after a short interview. Once Nici moved to join the team in Coll, I was promoted to Representative and have held the position for almost three years.
The best part for me as the Thailand Representative is meeting the Volunteers off the plane and re-living that first day emotional roller coaster again every year. The amazement, the confusion, the fascination, the hopelessness, the companionship with other Volunteers. It makes me remember my first month in Thailand and how that was the stepping stone to where I am today – it helps me remind myself of how grateful I am to Project Trust, my supporting family and all of my sponsors. An equally amazing part of working as Rep is seeing the volunteers at the end of the year. Their emotions are the stark opposite of day one. They are comfortable, realistic, understanding, able, and adult. They can speak Thai and have fallen in love with the same things I did when I was a Volunteer.
Project Trust is more than going abroad and helping those in need. It is about developing yourself too, finding your calling, realising what you want to do with your life. Whether you come away like me, completely besotted with the country, or return home with a ‘never again’ attitude – the experience will most certainly be the driving force for your next step in life. Just go for it. Don’t look back. Don’t second guess yourself. It will be an experience you’ll never forget.”