Rachel volunteered at Rehoboth Museum of Natural History and Archaeology in Namibia 1988/89. Rachel’s time in Namibia helped her to develop a greater sense of global awareness, to push her boundaries, and to explore her potential in new ways not possible at home. This directly influenced her decision to study medicine and become a paediatrician.
When Rachel’s daughter Alina applied to volunteer with Project Trust, Rachel hoped it would improve Alina’s confidence to embrace new challenges, amongst other things. Now working in a care home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear Alina’s confidence and adaptability is shining through.
1. What volunteer work did you do?
My project involved managing a museum of natural history and archaeology under the leadership of Dr Beatrice Sandelowsky, a renowned archaeologist. We maintained exhibits and displays, and when school finished each day we became guides and teachers for the children in the local community.
Rachel and other Project Trust volunteers speaking to children from the local community
2. Tell us about one of your memories from your time overseas.
I particularly remember the fundraising events we organised for the museum, including sponsored cycling and walking almost 100km to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. In 1989 Namibia was being supported towards independent elections by the UN transitional assistance group and as we made our trek to the capital, we had many hours to discuss and contemplate how the country would change with independence. These memories of fundraising re-emerged as Alina started her own campaign to volunteer for a year in Honduras.
Rachel on her sponsored cycle for the Museum with other Project Trust volunteers.
3. What is it you currently do?
I am a Professor of Nephrology (specialty of medicine focused on the kidneys) at the University of Manchester and a Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist at the Royal Manchester Children’s hospital. After my gap year with Project Trust I studied medicine, trained as a paediatrician, and then specialised in nephrology and research. My time in Namibia helped me to develop a much greater sense of global awareness, taught me to take big challenges, helped me to really appreciate diversity and gave me a powerful desire to help others. These influences have underpinned my career in both healthcare and research.
4. Having been a volunteer what did you hope Alina would gain when volunteering with Project Trust?
During her time with Project Trust I hoped Alina would see the world differently, improve her confidence to embrace new challenges, become receptive to many different perspectives, create new friendships and a lifelong connection with Honduras.
Rachel with other Project Trust Volunteers on Coll.
5. How did you feel when Alina went overseas?
Saying goodbye to Alina at Heathrow was tough! On one hand I was so excited for her and the adventures ahead but equally I was anxious about the risks of travel to an unfamiliar part of the world. I gained new respect for the feelings my family had when I was in Namibia. I really missed Alina’s company, but this was offset by a steady flow of text, photos and videos giving a real-time opportunity to share her experiences.
6. Do you now feel that you have shared experiences with Alina? What are some differences?
Although the countries, time and people were different, we share the experience of taking an early challenge in life. A huge difference is the communication I had with Alina through text and video calls. Although I loved my regular parcels and airmails from friends and family there were many gaps in communication. The ease of communication has also been a real blessing for Alina who was repatriated early from Honduras due to the coronavirus pandemic. She maintains regular contact with the many wonderful friends she now has in Honduras and it really feels as though we have a part of Honduras at home.
1. What volunteer work did you do?
I was a volunteer in La Unión, Honduras. I left in August 2019 and came back in March 2020, which was earlier than planned due to the global impact of COVID-19. I worked in a bilingual school, mainly as an assistant teacher in Second Grade ( for 7-8 year olds) but also as a cover teacher for primary school.
Alina and her Project Partner in Honduras.
2. Was your decision to volunteer with Project Trust influenced by your Mum’s experience at all?
I remember in high school I was talking about my future with my Mum. She was telling me all about her experiences with Project Trust in Namibia and I knew straight away that I wanted to do something like that. I’ve always been interested in Spanish and Latin America, so I knew that I wanted to go there. I couldn’t wait to sign up!
3. How did you develop during your time overseas and how has that influenced your life today?
I don’t think I was particularly self-conscious or shy before going but I’ve definitely noticed that I gained a lot of confidence in Honduras, both socially and in the workplace. Right now, I am working in a care home and my confidence, as well as being able to adapt to a new environment, has been crucial to settling in there. Honduras made me realise that I loved learning about the language and culture so much so that I actually ended up changing my course at Uni! I am now very excited to learn even more Spanish as well as French and Portuguese.
Alina and her Project Partner returning at the beginning of the pandemic.
4. Do you feel that your shared experiences have influenced your relationship with your mum?
I think that something very important about Project Trust is that everyone has a different experience. Me and my Mum had very different experiences, but we can still relate to growing significantly as an individual. I think my relationship with my Mum has matured over this past year and I think we appreciate the time we spend together a lot more now.
Please help us to ensure that Project Trust can offer another generation of young people life-enhancing experiences, by donating to Project Trust as part of our Urgent Appeal campaign.