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Your Community Report

Compiling your Community Report is the culmination of your year and something that Volunteers have been doing since the very beginning of Project Trust.

We want you to think about what you are going to include in your report and what aspects of your community and host country you are going to explore.

You shouldn’t underestimate the importance or significance of your Community Report – for many Volunteers it is the most important thing they physically take away from their year. You are currently experiencing one of the most challenging and exciting years of your life. At the moment everything appears fresh and immediate, yet it is amazing how on your return home memories of events that once meant so much can quickly become a distant blur. Your study is a direct link to your year, a lasting memory of what you saw and learnt and what you achieved.

  • What to include
    There is no one way to go about your report. It’s up to you to decide what you want to include; what you see as important and interesting. It is massively important to record the friends you’ve made and the work you’ve done, and many volunteers produce fabulous scrapbooks or diaries documenting this. However, a really interesting community report should do more than just this and should contain observations, reflections and analysis on the culture and society you have lived within.

    It is important to ask yourself the following:

    • Have you chosen at least one defining characteristic of your community?
    • How has your opinion changed over the course of you time there?
    • Have you made observations, analysed those observations and offered your own opinion and reflected on it?

    Some volunteers split their report into sections and talk about different aspects of their experience separately: friends, work, markets, religion, politics, food and so on. Others choose to focus on one particular aspect of the culture or project which interests them and uses this unique, in-depth experience to explore it in as much detail as possible.

  • Focussing your Thoughts
    It is important that you start deciding now what topic(s) you are going to concentrate on. Different topics will appeal to different people depending on your personality, academic background and what you have found particularly interesting in your project. Have a look at the topics and decide which ones interest you: use the questions as a starting point and develop your understanding from there.

    Perhaps learning the language and how it’s developed over time has given you a greater insight into your community? Perhaps the role of women in society intrigues you? Perhaps you have become fascinated by the way the politics and history of your country have affected the people you have met, or how religion informs the way society is run? What about music, food, education, festivals? You want to avoid just regurgitating facts: think about how certain issues influence the lives of the people you live amongst.

  • Definitions
    Observation: a statement based on something one has seen, heard, or noticed.

    “Many of the teachers have grown up in the village meaning they have a connection to a huge number of the kids; children learn alongside cousins, second cousins, half sisters and brothers; nieces and nephews are just a few classrooms away from aunties and uncles- it can all get very confusing!”

    Analysis: The critical examination of facts, information and data to uncover and increase understanding of an issue.

    “What the result of a lack of running water means is that many people have outside bathrooms, 52% of children that I asked said that the bathroom of their house was outside.”

  • Do your Research
    Every day that you live and experience your project will be your research. You don’t have to sit down with a textbook. Ideally, you will have been recording personal observations and thoughts as the year has gone by: your diary will be a good source of information.

    Gathering together your research is often the most interesting part of your study and the most fun. As much as possible it should be gained from speaking to people in the community, whether friends, friends’ parents and grandparents, fellow staff in the project or people you have met outside the project. Do be careful about how you go about your research – in some countries people may be happy to answer questions, in others they may be reluctant; and some questions might be misunderstood and taken badly. Remember to be sensitive!

    The following are some good places to help you research and learn more about global issues that might be relevant to your community…

  • Not a dry academic study: Make It Yours!
    How the report looks is totally up to you. In some countries it is possible to get hold of beautifully bound books that you can write the study in, otherwise an exercise book can be the raw material that you build on with whatever materials you have locally. Likewise some of you will be able to type the study, others will have to rely on pens and paper!

    Many volunteers make their report as visually interesting and colourful as possible: perhaps use things from your diaries or scrapbooks, photographs you’ve taken, collect newspaper articles and cartoons, money, bus tickets, drawings from pupils, letters from friends. Try your hand at the local script; include local trinkets or charms, even local shrubbery! For everyone the main thing is to capture as much of the colour and vibrancy of your local community as you can and so bring the report alive and make it yours.

  • Non-written Studies
    If you have chosen a non-written format for your report we require you to include a short written explanation/reflection to accompany your piece of work.

    This can be based on some of the following questions:

    • What was the motivation for this piece?
    • Why did you select this medium and why is it important to you and/or the community?
    • What defining characteristic of your local community does this piece depict?
    • Explain the key message behind the piece- what are you trying to convey?
  • Example Titles
    Not sure of a title?

    Here are some examples to get you thinking:

    • Scarce Resources: A study of Water and its impact on culture and community in rural South Africa.
    • An Analysis of the lasting impact of the Cultural Revolution on Education in Chinese Middle Schools.
    • Arranged Marriage – a study of love and commitment in South East India
    • Honduras from near and far: Challenging Western medial perceptions through the eyes of Honduran locals.
    • A study of Happiness in a Ghanaian village: What does it really mean to be happy?
    • A detailed study of Education in China: A day in the life of a Chinese student.
    • The Gender Divide: An exploration of women’s empowerment movements in India.
    • Machismo: Its origins and effects in Chilean Society.
    • Culture vs Development: Are traditions being lost in rural China?
  • What next?
    Select your topic(s) if you haven’t done so already and begin focussing your thoughts.

    This is your chance to pull together all the experiences that have made up your time overseas and make a record of the people you’ve met, the places you have worked, the things you have seen and the things you have discovered about the culture and community you are living in. It will enable you to get beneath the surface of your community and gain a real understanding of the people you are spending your year working and living amongst.

“There’s nothing better than having something to be proud of. Sometimes my year volunteering feels like one massive, surreal dream, so it’s nice to have the physical proof that yes, I did that, I definitely achieved something.”

Ella, India