Stewart volunteered with Project Trust in Namibia in 2010/11. He told us how he’s remained an active Global Citizen since returning to the UK:
“Thanks to Project Trust, I spent 2010/2011 in a Namibian school where I worked as a learning assistant and residential youth worker. I’ve continued to work with young people over the last few years, and have recently started a job with a charity called Camp Outlook.
“Camp Outlook is an entirely volunteer run organization which provides young people with the opportunity to develop their self-worth, inner strength, and capacity to succeed by taking them on hiking and canoeing expeditions at no set cost to them or their families. I started working with Camp Outlook as a hiking guide on weekends whilst at university, but I ended up staying on to work with them as a canoeist throughout the summer of 2014 and 2015, then as one of the camp directors in 2016.
“For the first couple of summers I would do everything that was needed in order to run a trip: I planned routes, booked trips, dehydrated food, packed bags, called campers, navigated, paddled, carried canoes between lakes, managed meals, lit fires, repaired relationships, played manhunt, swam, pretended to be happy in the mornings when all I wanted was coffee, and tried to make sure the kids got something out of all of this. This year, I have the opportunity to hire and train staff, coordinate trips, and do all of the nitty-gritty that is needed to make a charity work. Although this is less glamorous and requires a lot more spreadsheets, it’s still the first step towards working with NGOs long term, and it’s extremely rewarding to see the big picture stuff coming together.
“When I think of Camp Outlook – as with my year with Project Trust – my thoughts meander through a bizarre collection of memories without being able to pin down a concrete moment that represents what I have done. I think about the trip where it rained and stormed for eight days out of nine, but we still swam in the lakes every day. I think of the time that I taught a camper how to set up a tarp shelter and I remember how proud he was about being able to do it, and then I think of how he accidentally tied himself into a tent with those same knots and had to be cut free. I think about the campers who would call me all sorts of unprintable names and refuse to paddle, pack up, carry bags, or make friends, then cry on the last night of camp and explain that this was the best week of their lives. There’s no one Camp Outlook experience, but that’s a big part of the beauty of it.
“Although canoeing was most certainly not part of my year with Project Trust (I actually lived in a desert), I would not be working with Camp Outlook now if it were not for my gap year. For starters, Camp Outlook is based in Canada, and I would not have been there if it weren’t for the pair of itchy feet that I inherited from my time in Namibia. Before I went to live in Southern Africa I had only ever gone on five day holidays to resorts with my family, but following my year volunteering with Project Trust travel became second nature. The idea of spending a year in somewhere as relatively similar to the UK as Canada suddenly seemed easy, and I moved across the Atlantic to find a charity which has provided me with some of the most rewarding and educational days of my life.
“My wanderlust brought me into contact with Camp Outlook, but my experiences with Project Trust also gave me the adaptability and confidence to thrive there. When I applied to work with Camp Outlook for the summer of 2014, I had never canoed, led an expedition, or done a million and one other outdoorsy things before, but it didn’t matter. It never occurred to me that I was being over ambitious, as I was confident in my ability to work with co-staff and campers in an open minded way, so I figured that I could work out the little technical details (such as the whole camping thing) as I went along. After my time with Project Trust, this somehow wasn’t scary at all. I knew that I wanted to try it, so I ran at the opportunity head on and made the most of a new thing. The way I saw it, it was only four months, so how bad could it be?
“Not too bad at all, as it turned out.”