For the latest instalment of ‘Humans of Project Trust’, we spoke to Assistant Chief Executive John Fraser (Zambia 1973/74). John is retiring next month, we caught up with him in Zambia, where it all began…

“My Project journey started in 1973 as I stepped on to a Caledonian Airways VC10 at Heathrow bound for Nairobi and onward to Lusaka in an East African Airways Bristol Britannia. From here a flight via Kasaba Bay to Mbala on a Zambian Airways Douglas DC3 (Dakota) taking me to the Outward Bound School Zambia for my year with Project Trust (PT).

Humans of Project Trust: John Fraser

John’s passport from 1973/74

“The great difference between then and now is communication. My monthly allowance of Kwacha 30 (£15 in those days) was the equivalent of a 3 minute phone call to the UK, which had to be booked three days ahead and by all accounts the time delay took up most of this. No Representative, no Project Trust partner for the first 6 months, it was on many levels a very different experience from that of today’s Volunteer. But not so much, we still offer placements which stretch and challenge Volunteers on a whole number of levels and in today’s increasingly protective society allow them to experience and manage risk, make their own decisions, sort their problems without resorting at the first step to the structures and comforts of home. In these ways, it benefits the Volunteer, and in so doing our society, immeasurably.

“It is not without irony that I sit typing this blog in Zambia, definitely not something planned, it simply worked out this way that my last overseas visit prior to retirement should be to where Project Trust began for me 46 years ago. I joined Project Trust as a member of staff after a spell at the chalkface in 1981. My working lifetime of travel has taken me on 108 different airlines (yes I count these things) to 48 countries outside of Europe. From the humble (and noisy) Air Cubana Antonov An2 (has to be my favourite, or was it the Fokker 27 into the Himalaya with Pakistan International?) through to the modern Dreamliner and A380 I have been taken far and wide across the globe. On these travels I have had the great privilege of working with inspiring and motivated young people. So, I’m back in Zambia having had the opportunity to set up a programme in 2014 after a 40 year break.  Zambia has particular challenges in respect to education and the areas of Science and Maths, and IT in secondary schools suffer from a chronic lack of teachers, particularly in the rural areas. An opportunity therefore for Project Trust Volunteers to make an important contribution.

“The programme here has definite potential for expansion. Zambia is a safe and remarkably friendly country where Volunteers quickly feel at home. It has its idiosyncrasies, Zambians will happily tell you that! The six Volunteers who make up the current programme are a credit to PT – working hard, loving their communities and making the most of their opportunities. Trying to encourage them at the moment to go to the Harare International Festival of the Arts rather than the thankless grind of travelling to the coast of Mozambique. Zimbabwe is a fantastic country despite its troubles and the positivity and friendliness of the people is an inspiration. It’s very beautiful as well, and PT has the most positive memories of its programme there through the 80s and 90s.

“Alex Page, my successor as Overseas Director is accompanying me on this trip and seems to be surviving despite my driving. A good excuse though to show him a bit more of the exotic with a visit with the Volunteers to South Luangwa Game Park, one of the better in my humble opinion in southern Africa. Birdlife is amazing and a Black Bellied Bustard was a bit of a highlight, given its status is near threatened and rarely seen in Luangwa. The river was simply huge, very close to breaking its banks. At almost 200 metres across and flowing at speed and at least 4m deep it’s difficult to comprehend it is but a tributary of the Zambezi. Crocodiles and hippos have abandoned ship and moved to the many lagoons created by this incredible flow. The bush too is so green and lush that seeing animals was a challenge. However, three lions and a fantastic view of a leopard, which strolled past as if it owned the world, made for a great game drive.

Humans of Project Trust: John Fraser

John enjoying South Luangwa Game Park

“This is my fourth visit to Zambia having re-established the programme in 2014. Lots of highlights including a day in Parliament meeting most of the cabinet, including Guy Scott, who briefly held the post of President after the death of the incumbent, Michael Sata. The absolute highlight was a meeting with KK (Kenneth Kaunda) himself, who at 91 at the time was absolutely on the ball and fascinating to talk to. A 20 minute audience turned into an all afternoon affair discussing his almost 30 years in office, Apartheid*, the formation of the one party state, nationalisation and yes, Project Trust which he thought an excellent idea, a blessing therefore from Zambia’s founding father.  I even left with one of his famous handkerchiefs which he always waved at rallies, signed with his own fair hand.

* Zambia being effectively the country on the front line had the most to lose as a nation standing up against the Apartheid Regime and unlike his neighbour in Malawi, Hastings Banda, KK’s government was implacable in its opposition. It undoubtedly impacted on the Zambian economy given the natural direction of trade was to the south. KK though became synonymous with the stand against Apartheid and his recollections were fascinating. He described a significant number of clandestine meetings with various senior politicians in the South African Government culminating in a meeting on a train on the Victoria Falls bridge with Fredrick de Klerk in August 1989. To quote: “De Klerk said to me, ‘Kenneth, if I release Mandela there will be civil war in my country.’  I replied, ‘Fredrick if you do not release Mandela there will be civil war in your country.’ ” Mandela was released 6 months later and that KK was the first person he travelled to meet outside South Africa reflects the importance Mandela attached to KK’s support for him through those years.

Humans of Project Trust: John Fraser

John Fraser meeting Kenneth Kaunda

“Expanding the Zambia programme is a priority, and we took the opportunity to travel to Kabwe to doorstep the Central District education offices. We arrived to find no-one there, one of those Zambian idiosyncrasies. They are all at a meeting in Chipembi Girls’ High School we were told. I know Chipembi well having visited twice, so off we head. Through the good services of the Head Teacher, Albert Chituka, we had lunch with all those who matter and placements in Central Province are in the offing. I would love to see Volunteers at Chipembi, it is an excellent school and a credit to the hard work and dedication of Albert. He would love to have Volunteers but like many Zambian schools there is a chronic lack of staff accommodation which makes hosting Volunteers a challenge.

Humans of Project Trust: John Fraser

John at Chipembi Girls’ High School

“Retirement, believe that if you will! I’ll hopefully still have a contribution to make to this remarkable organisation.  More time though for fishing and lots of plans for gardening, hens, sheep and the world of boats. Yes, less travelling (my carbon footprint requires compensating), and my generation leaves to the next the baton which is Project Trust to carry into the next 50 years.  So here’s to the next 50 years of young people who care about this planet of ours, and through their experiences have a deeper and more holistic understanding of the challenges it faces.  We need more of them.”

Humans of Project Trust: Micaela

“Here’s to the next 50 years of young people who care about this planet of ours, and through their experiences have a deeper and more holistic understanding of the challenges it faces. We need more of them.”

Humans of Project Trust: Micaela

For the latest instalment of ‘Humans of Project Trust’, we spoke to Assistant Chief Executive John Fraser (Zambia 1973/74). John is retiring next month, we caught up with him in Zambia, where it all began…

“My Project journey started in 1973 as I stepped on to a Caledonian Airways VC10 at Heathrow bound for Nairobi and onward to Lusaka in an East African Airways Bristol Britannia. From here a flight via Kasaba Bay to Mbala on a Zambian Airways Douglas DC3 (Dakota) taking me to the Outward Bound School Zambia for my year with Project Trust (PT).

Humans of Project Trust: John Fraser

John’s passport from 1973/74

“The great difference between then and now is communication. My monthly allowance of Kwacha 30 (£15 in those days) was the equivalent of a 3 minute phone call to the UK, which had to be booked three days ahead and by all accounts the time delay took up most of this. No Representative, no Project Trust partner for the first 6 months, it was on many levels a very different experience from that of today’s Volunteer. But not so much, we still offer placements which stretch and challenge Volunteers on a whole number of levels and in today’s increasingly protective society allow them to experience and manage risk, make their own decisions, sort their problems without resorting at the first step to the structures and comforts of home. In these ways, it benefits the Volunteer, and in so doing our society, immeasurably.

“It is not without irony that I sit typing this blog in Zambia, definitely not something planned, it simply worked out this way that my last overseas visit prior to retirement should be to where Project Trust began for me 46 years ago. I joined Project Trust as a member of staff after a spell at the chalkface in 1981. My working lifetime of travel has taken me on 108 different airlines (yes I count these things) to 48 countries outside of Europe. From the humble (and noisy) Air Cubana Antonov An2 (has to be my favourite, or was it the Fokker 27 into the Himalaya with Pakistan International?) through to the modern Dreamliner and A380 I have been taken far and wide across the globe. On these travels I have had the great privilege of working with inspiring and motivated young people. So, I’m back in Zambia having had the opportunity to set up a programme in 2014 after a 40 year break.  Zambia has particular challenges in respect to education and the areas of Science and Maths, and IT in secondary schools suffer from a chronic lack of teachers, particularly in the rural areas. An opportunity therefore for Project Trust Volunteers to make an important contribution.

“The programme here has definite potential for expansion. Zambia is a safe and remarkably friendly country where Volunteers quickly feel at home. It has its idiosyncrasies, Zambians will happily tell you that! The six Volunteers who make up the current programme are a credit to PT – working hard, loving their communities and making the most of their opportunities. Trying to encourage them at the moment to go to the Harare International Festival of the Arts rather than the thankless grind of travelling to the coast of Mozambique. Zimbabwe is a fantastic country despite its troubles and the positivity and friendliness of the people is an inspiration. It’s very beautiful as well, and PT has the most positive memories of its programme there through the 80s and 90s.

“Alex Page, my successor as Overseas Director is accompanying me on this trip and seems to be surviving despite my driving. A good excuse though to show him a bit more of the exotic with a visit with the Volunteers to South Luangwa Game Park, one of the better in my humble opinion in southern Africa. Birdlife is amazing and a Black Bellied Bustard was a bit of a highlight, given its status is near threatened and rarely seen in Luangwa. The river was simply huge, very close to breaking its banks. At almost 200 metres across and flowing at speed and at least 4m deep it’s difficult to comprehend it is but a tributary of the Zambezi. Crocodiles and hippos have abandoned ship and moved to the many lagoons created by this incredible flow. The bush too is so green and lush that seeing animals was a challenge. However, three lions and a fantastic view of a leopard, which strolled past as if it owned the world, made for a great game drive.

Humans of Project Trust: John Fraser

John enjoying South Luangwa Game Park

“This is my fourth visit to Zambia having re-established the programme in 2014. Lots of highlights including a day in Parliament meeting most of the cabinet, including Guy Scott, who briefly held the post of President after the death of the incumbent, Michael Sata. The absolute highlight was a meeting with KK (Kenneth Kaunda) himself, who at 91 at the time was absolutely on the ball and fascinating to talk to. A 20 minute audience turned into an all afternoon affair discussing his almost 30 years in office, Apartheid*, the formation of the one party state, nationalisation and yes, Project Trust which he thought an excellent idea, a blessing therefore from Zambia’s founding father.  I even left with one of his famous handkerchiefs which he always waved at rallies, signed with his own fair hand.

* Zambia being effectively the country on the front line had the most to lose as a nation standing up against the Apartheid Regime and unlike his neighbour in Malawi, Hastings Banda, KK’s government was implacable in its opposition. It undoubtedly impacted on the Zambian economy given the natural direction of trade was to the south. KK though became synonymous with the stand against Apartheid and his recollections were fascinating. He described a significant number of clandestine meetings with various senior politicians in the South African Government culminating in a meeting on a train on the Victoria Falls bridge with Fredrick de Klerk in August 1989. To quote: “De Klerk said to me, ‘Kenneth, if I release Mandela there will be civil war in my country.’  I replied, ‘Fredrick if you do not release Mandela there will be civil war in your country.’ ” Mandela was released 6 months later and that KK was the first person he travelled to meet outside South Africa reflects the importance Mandela attached to KK’s support for him through those years.

Humans of Project Trust: John Fraser

John Fraser meeting Kenneth Kaunda

“Expanding the Zambia programme is a priority, and we took the opportunity to travel to Kabwe to doorstep the Central District education offices. We arrived to find no-one there, one of those Zambian idiosyncrasies. They are all at a meeting in Chipembi Girls High School we were told. I know Chimpembi well having visited twice, so off we head. Through the good services of the Head Teacher, Albert Chituka, we had lunch with all those who matter and placements in Central Province are in the offing. I would love to see Volunteers at Chitembi, it is an excellent school and a credit to the hard work and dedication of Albert. He would love to have Volunteers but like many Zambian schools there is a chronic lack of staff accommodation which makes hosting Volunteers a challenge.

Humans of Project Trust: John Fraser

John at Chipembi Girls’ High School

“Retirement, believe that if you will! I’ll hopefully still have a contribution to make to this remarkable organisation.  More time though for fishing and lots of plans for gardening, hens, sheep and the world of boats. Yes, less travelling (my carbon footprint requires compensating), and my generation leaves to the next the baton which is Project Trust to carry into the next 50 years.  So here’s to the next 50 years of young people who care about this planet of ours, and through their experiences have a deeper and more holistic understanding of the challenges it faces.  We need more of them.”