Project Trust

Project Trust

About

Project Trust empowers young people to be confident, effective, creative, independent and resilient through challenging volunteering experiences overseas. Acting as responsible global citizens Volunteers make a positive difference to their host communities overseas and share their learning and understanding when they return home. Our volunteering experience is open to all young people with the desire, motivation and aptitudes required to succeed. Our volunteering experience is open to all young people with the desire, motivation and aptitudes required to succeed.

Project Trust has been providing long term voluntary placements in Africa, Asia and Latin America for young people since 1967, making it the oldest educational charity specialising in overseas volunteering for school-leavers from the UK.

From our home on the Hebridean Isle of Coll, we annually select young people from across the UK for eight or 12 month voluntary teaching and social care projects overseas.

Founded
1967
Headquarters

Hebridean Centre
Isle of Coll
PA78 6TE
United Kingdom

Reviews

Default avatar
Kate
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My weekly working life:

Work in a preschool from 8:00am - 12:00pm.
The children are the cutest, loveliest and cheekiest children I have ever met! I teach them basic English, so we learn colours, letters, numbers, shapes etc... The rest of the time is spent singing, dancing, playing and reading stories. Colouring and crafts they also love and they generally make a mess with paint, glitter glue and anything they can get their mischievous hands on!
Preschool work is brilliant fun, very challenging but tremendously rewarding. You will never feel more loved than you do when you have 60 small children all fighting each other just to get a Hi5 or a hug!

My soup kitchen work is also fantastic - it is much more emotionally challenging than the preschool work because the children you are feeding have nothing in the whole world. Most of them are orphaned and they care for younger brothers and sisters, uneducated and poor they have slim chances of ever bettering themselves.
Handing out the food is something that I enjoy and dislike at the same time; hard to understand but it does make sense! While I feel good for providing these children with a stable meal, I also feel bad when I see them push and shove and fight while we are serving... always desperate to grab anything they can. Here are children who are all as starving as each other, but they are so desperate they will push tiny toddlers out from their way just to get some leftovers. It is heartbreaking.
However they are really brilliant children; I love playing with them after we have served the food, when you look at them all together they look like such a sorry group. But when you begin to play sports, games and sing songs they really come out of themselves and they can be pictures of pure joy despite everything else. They are amazing.

I love Project Trust for giving me this opportunity, and I love my program so much! I may never want to leave Swaziland...
If you ever get a chance to do something like this jump at it, grab it with both hands, and never let go.

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly I can't think of anything I would change. I am free to adapt my program as I please, spend more time at one place than another and I can set up secondary projects. If there is something in my program that I am unhappy with (in my day to day routine) I have the ability to change it.
If I HAD to change one thing it wouldn't be about the program but I would make my preschool larger and better resourced. The school is very basic and there is basically nothing in the way of monetary support or resource donations, we scrape by on the little we have and it would be incredible if we had the ability to do more with the children.

Programs

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Project Trust
Project Trust - Gap Year Volunteer Programs in Swaziland
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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Kate Dow

Kate Dow is 18 years old and from Darlington, North East England; she attended school at Hummersknott Academy, and recently finished her A-Levels at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College. She currently works as a teaching volunteer for Project Trust in Swaziland, Southern Africa. She enjoys reading, photography, climbing, extreme sports, camping, eating any kind of food (but loves Mexican) and allowing herself to experience new and wonderful things!

Why did you decide to take a gap year with Project Trust in Swaziland?

Without lying the reason I decided to take a gap year with Project Trust was because I was stressing out about University. I was overwhelmed at college with all the preparation for UCAS and all the talk about personal statement deadlines because I didn’t know what type of courses I was interested in. This made me realise that University wasn’t the right choice for me this year, I wasn’t ready to go and I needed to do something different. That was when Project Trust came to my college to give a presentation; as soon as I saw it I was sure that I wanted to be a part of it. Project Trust send volunteers all over the world but I knew that I wanted to go somewhere rural; Swaziland was described as ‘the real Africa’, and that is the line that sold it to me. I wanted to be in a place where my volunteering efforts would really be needed and appreciated, and Swaziland seemed like the perfect place!

What made this gap year experience unique and special?

Project Trust send you away to your countries in pairs or small groups; my partner Ashley and I are the only two volunteers in Swaziland from our charity. One of the most unique experiences of this gap year is definitely being accepted into a small community and being a big part of the lives of the people that you work with. There’s nothing more touching than turning up on the first day as a complete stranger and being welcomed with open arms; you earn the respect, friendship and love of those around you every day and forge relationships with new people who you would never have met any other way... Being part of a new country and adopting the culture is tough but it makes the year so special because you learn about another way of living, learn the history and traditions of the place you’re living in, and when you leave you’re not just leaving a country... you’re leaving your second home.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Taking a year out with Project Trust was one of the best choices I have ever made; instead of rushing into University it has given me the time to mature, reflect on myself and think about where my interests lie. Therefore when I return to the UK I will have a better idea of how I want to progress in work or higher education. It has opened my eyes to just how tough it is living in a third world country, and I have seen things that some people never experience in their lives. This has made me more aware of the problems that we have in our world and made me realise just how lucky I am, there are things that I would never have thought I should be grateful for until I came to Swaziland, but now I am grateful for just about everything because I have seen just how little some people have. I feel like I have matured more in these first 5 months of being in Swaziland than I have in the last two years of college in England; I have grown up and taken on responsibilities that most people won’t come across until their adult working life, this can only be an advantage once I return home!

Highlights: It’s so hard to pick a highlight of my program so far! I enjoy everything I do, and I know that there’s more to come with every single day I spend here... Right now I would have to say that my highlight of my program has been getting to know and love the people that I work alongside and the children that I work with. Small things such as learning all 60 names of the children at our preschool feel like mountainous achievements; when we first arrived in Swaziland I took one look at the register and couldn’t even begin to think about how to pronounce the names – now I know how to say all the names, who they belong to and I can speak some basic SiSwati so I can actually tell them what I want them to do! Well, to an extent. Everything like this just enriches the time that I spend here, and one of my most favourite highlights so far is getting to know the children and their personalities... You don’t realise just how much you are learning about them until you talk to friends and family from back home and tell them the stories that happen. You get to learn who are the cheeky ones, the trouble makers, the ones who will do everything you ask and even the 4 year olds who look cute as a button but according to your Swazi translator they swear like a sailor!

So far the highlight of my overall experience here has been setting up Christmas presents for the children at our preschool and the children at soup kitchen. My project partner and I set up an appeal on Facebook aimed at our family and friends, we asked for people to donate £10 each to sponsor the gift for one child. In total we managed to raise over £600 and for every child for Christmas we bought them; a backpack, shoes, clothes, toys, sweets, a folder and a pencil case with pens/colours/scissors/rubber/ruler/sharpener etc... everything! At this moment in time we haven’t actually handed out the gifts yet, as it is too early – but they have all been bought and they are sitting in gigantic piles in our small bedrooms taking up all our space. I’m looking forward to giving out the gifts more than anything else so far! I can’t wait to see the excitement and joy on their faces when they open their new backpacks; it will be worth every penny spent, every hour spent shopping and every strained muscle carrying our wares with us!

Both of these entries are about the children that I work with – which has made me realise, it is the children who are the sole highlight of my trip. They are the reason I am here, they are what is keeping me here, and they are the reason I will be a better person when I leave. They teach me so much everyday and they don’t even know it, they are amazing human beings considering their situations and each one of them means the world to me.

Morning: I have quite a busy schedule! My volunteering partner and I live in a girl’s hostel in a fairly privileged high school, so every morning the bell goes at 5am to get the girls out of bed! Can’t say that I rise and shine happily at 5am; but I do get up for breakfast at 6:30am sharp, otherwise I know that I’ll be eating my own arm by the time it gets to lunch at 1:30.

The main part of the work we do out here in Swaziland is preschool teaching; we teach in two different preschools so our mornings vary throughout the week. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we go to a preschool called Injabulo, it is run completely by the two of us and there’s one other lady there called Teacher Nelsiwe and she helps us with SiSwati translations. There are only two small classrooms for us to teach in, and there are 60 children at the preschool, we really have our hands full as we are the only teachers there. We leave hostel around 7:15 and walk to our hosts house (our host is someone who is appointed as our ‘guardian’ whilst we are here), at their house we fill up containers with 30 litres of safe drinking water to take to the preschool and make peanut butter sandwiches to give to the children as a snack.

We load all of this into a big white truck we drive that has been named ‘Butch’ by previous volunteers (an appropriate choice of name I can assure you, it is a monster!), and set off along the badly tarred roads, gravel tracks and small bridges over rivers that it takes to get us to our preschool that is out in the middle of nowhere. Once in the village we pick up children along the way and pile them into the back of the truck, you’d be surprised at the number of 3-5 year olds you can compact into the back, we must manage about 15 on a standard day and 20-30 if the weather is bad and they decide not to walk! A little fact about the people of Swaziland, when it rains they take it as a ‘day off’; they stay in their homesteads, light a fire and sleep. You’d get nothing done if that was the attitude in England!

We aim to start teaching around 8:30-8:45, so until then we hand out the peanut butter sandwiches and water, send them to the toilet, get them to wash their hands and then we all stand together outside and sing ‘You are the Light of the World’. Those are the only 7 words to the song, so we get them to scream it so loud you want to cover your ears and then they whisper it like a mouse, it’s a really great way for us to get them warmed up for the day and ready to learn! As they are quite young (and we teach in English) the material that we get through is only basic; we teach letters, numbers, counting, body parts, colours, weather, objects, shapes etc... I love teaching at Injabulo, although it is very challenging with the language barrier, we have mastered classroom SiSwati commands so we can control the children, but you do have to use a lot of hand gestures and physically demonstrate to them what you want them to do!

From 11:15-12:00 we bring both our classes together for song and dance; there’s no electricity in the preschool so we only have our voices, and they aren’t too great! Although we are horrendous singers the children seem to enjoy themselves and we make up for our bad singing with enthusiasm and hilarious dancing. We teach religious songs, children’s nursery rhymes, educational songs and they also sing SiSwati preschool songs and practice traditional Swazi dancing. After preschool we pile them back into the truck and drop them back off where we found them that morning!

Tuesdays and Thursdays we work at a place called Moriah Center; it is a Christian Preschool that is sponsored by an American church in the village of Big Bend where we live. It is a 30 minute walk away and we set off at 7:15, ready for the preschool starting at 8am. The Moriah Centre is different to Injabulo in every way, shape and form; there are only 35 children in the whole preschool and there are a minimum of two teachers to one class. The largest class has only 12 pupils. Moriah Centre has so many resources to its disposal and the learning and teaching that happens there is really brilliant. We have great fun helping out with the children, and my favorite part is when they all go into the hall and watch song and dance DVD’s and we all join in! It’s a tiring 45 minutes, but so much fun, and I’m always shocked at how well the children can sing all the songs, when all of them are in English!

Afternoon: Lunch is at 1:30 every day, so we put out plastic boxes in the girls and boys hostel dinner halls to collect their unwanted food (this will make sense later!), then our usual afternoons consist of paperwork and account for Injabulo our preschool, planning and preparation for our lessons and writing thousands of letters to businesses for food donations for lunch times at Injabulo. Injabulo takes over our lives, but we love it because we love the children!

On Tuesdays and Fridays we also cook in the hostel kitchen; we take all of the food that we have collected from hostel and cook a soup/stew in a pot that must weigh about a tonne! This is because on Tuesdays and Fridays we run another project called ‘Soup Kitchen’; we drive out to Mpolongeni, Siteki a really poor and rural area where the population has been devastated by HIV and AIDS. We arrive and unload everything onto a long metal table; we stand for about 15 minutes while the children sing under a tree and say their prayers. Most of the children only have a single parent and there are about 20 orphans out of the 60 who we feed. Many of them bring their tiny brothers and sisters along as they have no one to care for them, some of these children are only 3-4 years old themselves, and they walk for kilometres with these babies on their backs just for a helping of our food... The children then say “Thank you for bring us food” and we reply with “You are very welcome”, and they all rush forwards to the table and thrust their tatty bowls and plates out to us. A lady called Aunty Vina who lives at Soup Kitchen oversees the whole thing, and she keeps them in line when they get too rowdy! She’s amazing, and houses 8 of the orphans herself.

After we have dished up the fun begins! We normally play football with the children, ball games, sing and dance and play group games together. With the smaller ones we sing “If you want to play make a big circle” and they all reply “BIG CIRCLE” and run towards us to join hands and make a huge circle. We normally do the Hockey Cokey which they LOVE, and we clap and sing the words “dance baby dance, dance baby dance” and people take turns going into the middle of the circle and dancing for everyone! It is so much fun, and the children are so amazing that you forget just how poor they are until you take a step back and actually look at them in their ragged clothes, bare feet and unwashed skin. Never in my life have I been around children full of so much joy, energy and love.

Evening: Compared to our packed days our evenings are luckily not as busy! Dinner at hostel is at 6pm, and after then is prep time for the girls – we usually go down to the staffroom and print off resources for our preschool. The bell in hostel goes at 9pm for bed-time and we are responsible for making sure that the girls in the rooms around ours are quiet. This is a challenge because during the day we act as friends to them, then it turns 9pm and we’re telling them to get into bed!