Kate Neville-Towle

Project Trust is grateful to Kate Neville-Towle (Malaysia, 2011/12) for sharing this piece:
The experience of volunteering Malaysia in 2012 was undoubtedly amazing, but going away was not so significant for me as for my mum. Family visits aren’t exactly encouraged by Project Trust, understandably as the experience is one that should be taken on by the individual. However, after six months in Malaysia, having encountered a new language, climate, culture, religion etc, seeing my mum in the classroom of the school I had been working in was the most poignant moment. No question.

Nine months before arriving in Malaysia mum had been diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis was three months. At this point I had been successfully selected to take part in the 12-month programme in Namibia, but understandably these plans quickly changed and it became uncertain as to if I would even be able to go away. Mum however told me that I should definitely keep my plans, and after changing to particip8 I continued my fundraising whilst waiting to find out which country would be my new destination. As time progressed mum went through four rounds of chemotherapy, a hip replacement and radiotherapy, yet she was there to support me every step of the way.

During the initial few months in Malaysia, like many other volunteers I dealt with a certain degree of homesickness. Following advice from returned volunteers mum sent me packages filled with chocolate, clothes and the occasional DVD. Looking back I know that we kept each other going, and in her letters the one thing that mum was adamant about was that she would come out and visit so she could see first hand the place that had become my home.

Finally, six months in on June 14, I travelled to Kuala Lumpar in order to meet my parents. After a happy few days travelling my family made the journey to rural Melaka and visited my school. Watching Mum’s face as she met the students was worth any degree of homesickness; it was the happiest she had been since she was diagnosed.

I have no doubt mum lived for that visit. By the time of her visit she had passed her prognosis by over a year, and I think it was her way of showing cancer exactly what she thought of it.

On January 17 2013, mum passed away. My memories of seeing her in Malaysia will always stay with me, and her courage and strength kept me going during my time away. My Project Trust experience will stay with me for the rest of my life, and it gave my mum 17 months of life the doctors told her she did not have.