Hazel’s Footprints Trust was set up in 2004 in memory of Hazel Scott Aiton whose tragic death left an unfillable hole in the lives of all who knew her.
Hazel was just 21 years old when she was tragically killed in a car accident near her home in the Scottish Borders in August 2004. Hazel’s family, with the encouragement of her young friends, set up the Trust to continue Hazel’s charitable work.
Read on to discover Hazel’s positive attitude to life and you’ll see why she inspired all that the Trust has achieved.
Born and raised at Legerwood with her brother Peter, Hazel Scott Aiton was always a lively child who would much rather spend her time outside playing with her pony, “baas” or Tamworth pigs than inside with dolls or computer games. Indeed ponies and the Pony Club took up much of her formative years and included several seasons taking part in horse vaulting.
As a member of Lauderdale Pony Club, Hazel represented them at regional level in dressage and cross-country eventing and was also a keen competitor at tetrathlons, again competing at higher levels as an individual internationally.
Hazel also enjoyed a full and active time at Loretto School in Musselburgh (near Edinburgh), where she went after Earlston Primary School. She represented the first teams for hockey, lacrosse, athletics, riding, swimming and shooting. Hazel also went on to the Scottish schools’ championships as a key member of the school’s riding and swimming teams.
In addition, she played a full role in wider school life and was head of Balcarres House in her final year. When not on the sports field, she found time to take part in several school plays (including a starring role as a door knocker), as well as achieving a much-coveted Duke of Edinburgh Gold award.
Her studies were not neglected and by applying herself diligently she succeeded in getting the necessary grades to secure herself a place studying philosophy at the University of Durham. No wonder she was awarded the Loretto school prize for all-round endeavor!
A year in Namibia
Hazel then decided that Durham could wait for her and left on an incredibly daunting new experience in a far-off land. She left home for her gap year working in a remote northern Namibian school (Otjikondo Village School) and writes vividly in her journal about how terrified she is at the prospect of spending the next 12 months 5,000 miles away from home surrounded by demanding children with no chance of cutting loose and coming home early.
But Hazel was never one to let herself be intimidated by such trivial matters. Equally afraid of failure as of the adventure that lay ahead, she writes about her determination to give it her best shot. As in every other thing she set her mind to, she goes on to resounding success. That’s Hazel through and through.
It is impossible to exaggerate the success she made of her twelve months at the Otjikondo Village School, nor to over-estimate the impact she made there on the staff and, of course, on her adored children. (You can see some of the lovely things the children have written in “Letters from Otjikondo”). At the school, Hazel found a real niche for herself. She cared for the children, had fun with them and taught them so many life skills – academic and otherwise.
Read Hazel’s Journal
A Gap in the Life is a collection of entries from Hazel’s Journal from her time volunteering at Otjikondo Village School (including school holiday travels!).
Hazel heads to Durham
Her next challenge was at Durham where she discovered competitive rowing. Hazel represented Hatfield College at various top level events and venues (including Henley, although she had to jump ship to Hild Bede College for that one). Her almost-fluorescent stripy socks became a much loved sight on the water wherever she went.
Hazel continued in the theatrical vein, too, this time directing a critically acclaimed production of “Daisy Pulls It Off”, a production that seems to have secured the future of the Hatfield College Theatre Company. She was also an active member of DUCK, the Durham University Charities Kommittee. She had been elected on to the Executive as Events Organiser, a role ideally tailored to her organisational skills and her ability to inspire others.
In 2003, as part of DUCK, she took on Mount Kilimanjaro (at over 19,000 feet, the highest mountain in Africa and the world’s largest free-standing mountain) which must rank as the toughest physical challenge of Hazel’s life. Battling exhaustion and the horrors of altitude sickness, she reached her goal (as she always did) through sheer determination and guts. In the process, she raised an amazing £7,500, of which the bulk went to Otjikondo.
Fond memories of college life
Hazel was universally acclaimed by her peers as a Hatfield “Legend”, a term reserved only for the most highly respected and popular of students in the college. Apparently, the laughter and commotion she caused were always to be heard throughout the college building. At the memorial service held in October 2004, over 350 fellow students paid tribute to Hazel in a beautiful and moving service. A Book of Remembrance was created and includes some amazing words written by friends from University.
Return to Namibia
In July 2004, she returned to Otjikondo not only to see her brother, Peter, who was following in her footsteps by spending his gap year there, nor just to see the children (though she couldn’t wait to be with them all again), but also to inspect the progress being made on the new accommodation block which her fantastic Kili fundraising efforts had made possible.
Remembering Hazel Scott Aiton
Hazel’s caring side was never far below the surface. A young student in his first year at Durham wrote after the accident saying he would never forget how, when he first arrived at university, a little bewildered, shy and uncertain of things, Hazel (by then in her second year) had taken him under her wing, shown him the ropes and given him the confidence to make a go of things.
And one small boy in Namibia will always have cause to remember Hazel particularly fondly; not long into her African sojourn, she spent a whole afternoon helping him wind in the delicate tape which had somehow escaped from his one cassette – and his proudest possession.
Throughout her life, Hazel was always a ‘giver’, never a ‘taker’, but perhaps Hazel’s greatest achievement was the sheer, unbounded love and respect she aroused in anyone she ever met. People whose lives were made so much richer by her just being there. People who will never forget her. People who miss her more than mere words can ever hope to express.
Hazel’s family and friends feel that we loved one of the best people we are ever likely to know. We also know that we must recognize, in her inspirational example, exactly how we should all lead the rest of our lives. If we can all pick up the lead she gave and follow in her footprints, the world – Hazel’s beloved world – will be an infinitely better place.
(Contributed by a family friend)
About Hazel’s Footprints Trust
Find out more about what Hazel’s Footprints Trust aims to achieve in memory of Hazel Scott Aiton.