Our Story

Project Trust was the first charity to specialise in organising overseas Gap Year placements for school-leavers. Since sending three volunteers to Ethiopia in 1967 over 8,000 young people have volunteered with us in more than 67 different countries.

Our Home in the Hebrides…

Our headquarters has been on the Isle of Coll in Scotland since 1974, first at Breacachadh castle, then Bousd in the east of the island, until the Hebridean Centre, where Project Trust is still based, opened in 1988.

The charity has always prided itself on knowing every volunteer personally and treating them as individuals, and volunteer numbers have been managed to foster this relationship. Our volunteer numbers steadily increased after we sent three overseas in the first year. In 1979 Project Trust’s volunteer numbers reached 100 for the first time, and 2003 was the first year 200 volunteers went overseas. In the 2012/13 volunteer year Project Trust sent 300 volunteers overseas, which has been set as a maximum number, allowing us to offer our volunteering experience to as many young people as possible whilst maintaining the personal support we’ve always offered to volunteers.

Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, who received an OBE for his services to Project Trust, founded the charity and led the decision to base the headquarters on the Isle of Coll. Lavinia Maclean-Bristol took over as Director in 1995, before current CEO Ingrid Emerson MBE took up her post in 2008.

Founder Member of the Year Out Group

Having been awarded charitable status in 1968, Project Trust has continued to be a leader in the field of youth volunteering. In 1998 Project Trust was one of the co-founders of the Year Out Group, an association of leading year out organisations formed to promote the concept and benefits of well-structured year out programmes, to promote models of good practice and to help young people and their advisers in selecting suitable and worthwhile projects.

As Project Trust approaches its 50th anniversary, it remains pioneering and innovative. Since the 2013/14 Volunteer year all our Volunteers have the opportunity to gain a Diploma in International Volunteering accredited by NOCN for working through the Project Trust programme. Our Global Citizenship programme is allowing Returned Volunteers to share their knowledge and experiences in schools around the UK.

For almost 50 years Project Trust has organised long-term, ethical and responsible voluntary placements for school-leavers. We will continue to strive to provide educational opportunities for young people, giving them the chance to conduct meaningful work in overseas communities whilst having the experience of a lifetime.

“I always thought that changing the world was about helping underprivileged people. Now I realise it starts with getting to the heart of a community and its people and all this can start with Project Trust.”

Shaun, Uganda Gap Year Volunteer

It is a huge privilege working with such inspirational young people knowing that, in so many ways, we are helping to develop a generation of global citizens who develop a deep understanding of some complex global issues. And, more importantly, following their time spent overseas, who go on to make a real difference and campaign for social justice.”

Ingrid Emerson MBE, Project Trust’s Chief Executive