Izzy Richards: Off to Otjikondo School, Namibia

Izzy Richards is just about to leave for Otjikondo School in Namibia – she has been awarded one of our Footprinter Grants for volunteers heading to educational projects in disadvantaged communities. We are always especially delighted when “Footprinters” go to Otjikondo – this is the school Hazel put so much energy into when she was a volunteer teacher in 2001/2002.

Izzy Richards before she heads to Otjikondo

Reflections from Izzy Richards as she sets off

When I think about how in six days (Thursday 30th August) I will be embarking on the first leg of a journey that will land me in Namibia for a year, to say I’m a bit nervous would be an understatement. I’m someone who could easily be described as fairly quiet, reserved, maybe even shy, so being put in charge of a big class of noisy (and very enthusiastic) children at Otjikondo School is, to be honest, extremely daunting.

Believing in myself

I always knew I wanted to have a gap year between school and university, but it wasn’t until I was about 16 that the thought of spending the entire year living abroad even crossed my mind – at the time it seemed like such an abstract concept. My mum had spent a year living in Pakistan when she was my age, but I never thought that I, of all people, would be capable of doing this. Up until training six weeks ago I was still very unsure that Project Trust had picked the right person for this project; it took a huge amount of reassurance from Peter, a senior country coordinator, and particularly Jordan, my country coordinator, to get to a point where I really believe that I won’t be a complete failure. I still have moments where I completely second guess myself and wonder what on earth I’m doing.

Finding Project Trust

My journey to Project Trust began by complete chance. I’d been thinking about spending my gap year abroad a lot when I found a leaflet in my school’s sixth form area and, after some research, I decided to go for it and apply. About a month later I found myself up on the Isle of Coll on selection. It was unbelievably overwhelming, I was surrounded by so many confident and outgoing people that I began to feel slightly out of place; at the same time I saw what I could have the opportunity to do, so when I was selected I decided to go for it as I didn’t want to let the opportunity slide out of fear of not being good enough. The following year has a whirlwind of fundraising, organising, letter writing, revision, hours of Art coursework and A Level exams.

Training was very intense, difficult but fun and an essential experience. It was full of ups and downs; I spent so much time staring at the wall repeatedly thinking “what am I doing? Why am I doing this? I can’t do this” and feeling terrified at the prospect and scale of what I’m about to start doing. However, meeting my project partner, Skye, was amazing and it was a relief to find we get on so well. Finding out more and more about my project at Otjikondo and all the people there was fascinating and made me wish I was there already. Learning about all the people I have and will form close connections with and seeing pictures of some of the pupils made me forget almost all the worries I have. I’m not exactly sure what to expect though. I know it will be busy and I will have a lot to do. I will learn a lot about myself, other people, teaching, Namibia and so many other things. There will be highs and there will be lows. There will be moments when things go wrong and I miss my home in the UK, my family and my friends but I’m almost certain, after listening to everything that people have had to say, that when the time eventually comes I won’t want to leave.

Otjikondo awaits!

Reading back, this initial report seems full of fear, but within all that fear I am indescribably excited. I’m excited to teach. I’m excited to learn. I can only hope that the children learn half as much from me as I know I will from them. I’m excited to travel, see new things, eat new foods, get to now knew people and become part of a different culture. The next year will be a huge experience full of highs and lows; I wouldn’t want to go through the year without this balance of high and low points. The highs will remind me why I decided to do this and the lows will help build me up and teach me valuable lessons.

I want to thank Hazel’s Footprints everyone who’s supported me in any way so far, whether it be just through fundraising or through encouragement as well. Next time you hear from me will be from Otjikondo, Namibia and I truly cannot wait to be there!

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