Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

15th September 2010

I’m Off!! by Anna Seymour

Home | Footprinter Reports | I’m Off!! by Anna Seymour

The adventure begins

With only a few days left before I depart the waves of nervous excitement are kicking in! Soon I shall be boarding a plane from London Heathrow all the way to Santiago, Chile my home for the next year – half way across the world. I hope I will have the opportunity to make a positive impact on many lives and of course on my own!

My placement as a volunteer in a school is being organised through a charity called Project trust which is based in Scotland. When I began my selection course with Project Trust last August(2009) the end goal seemed so far away with just under £5000 standing between me and my year teaching as well as a bunch of A-Level exams to get through!(not to mention UCAS forms and University applications/interviews) However, with a lot of hard work and the generosity and support of so many people both strangers and friends (church, school, teachers, friends, family, charities, trust funds, my Mum!) we have managed it! All the coffee mornings, jelly/cake sales, craft fairs and extra paid shifts at my part time job have finally paid off; months later My Chilean gap year abroad is finally becoming a reality. A special thanks to Hazels Footprints for their support this means such a lot to me as there are many things I had not really budgeted for (like the hotel bed at the airport the night before departure and the clothes and equipment I have needed). This award means that I dont need to eat into my savings quite so much!

In July I attended a preparation week of intensive training (interspersed with some wild Scottish Dancing). My trip up to Project Trust Training Centre in the Hebrides (on the Isle of Coll) has already taught me a lot. I now feel just about ready to be a teacher; I know that teaching large classes of active Chilean children will differ from the lesson plans I have delivered to practice groups of eighteen year olds, however I am much more confident and prepared for life in a school environment. If there is one thing I have learnt it is that planning and organisation is key!

The week in Coll also made me think about coping with being away from home and culture shock and how I might deal with it. We learnt about overcoming language barriers and coping with stress and illnesses abroad, perhaps all inevitable but hopefully manageable aspects of taking a year out living in a distant country. I now own a thick folder full of instructions- from how to rid your house of rats to surviving a volcano (hopefully I wont need the answers to either!) By far the most exciting read in my folder is the report on my project written by previous volunteers and added to by staff. My school is located in Pudahuel, Santiago. It sounds both amazing and challenging (some of the children may also have behavioural problems and learning difficulties/disabilities). I think issues like this and the poverty surrounding the school and its students will make my year demanding but overcoming such challenges will be enriching and I really cant wait to get fully involved in school and community life. Many of the childrens parents work at the school work on a voluntary basis as cleaners, dinner ladies and assistants which illustrates the family oriented aspects of the Chilean community which I have read about. This close family feel attracted me to Chile and I really hope I can become immersed in the South American culture, being a part of the community. Although Chile has suffered hardships both natural (this year Chile was the victim of devastating earthquakes ) and a Political history of instability (Pinochets dictatorship is still painfully fresh in the minds of those affected) my investigations suggest the country is still very friendly and hospitable, which I look forward to experiencing first hand.

So what are my plans and hopes for the coming year?

In the next year I would really like to become more independent and learn some life skills, not just language based but everything from understanding and managing a job and work; exploring the impact of politics and different social policies; trying different foods; living with a new family seeped in a different culture; visiting new places in a diverse climate just everything!! Although I am nervous about being an outsider after being absorbed in my home town and community for so long Im sure my experience away will be incredible and I cannot wait for the adventure to begin!

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