Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

3rd February 2014

Initial report: Ceri Thomas

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I am very grateful for the funding that Hazels Footprints Trust has given me towards my volunteering placement in Fiji.

First a little about me:

I will be 19 in January and last year I completed my Diploma in Child Care and Education at my local college, Coleg Gwent, in Pontypool, Wales. I live with my mum and dad, and have one sister, Laura.

I have always wanted to do overseas volunteering. When I was in Primary School we had a talk on children in Africa which interested me so much I must have talked about it at home a lot as my mum and dad decided to buy me a sponsorship pack that Christmas. We sponsored Hildah in Zambia until she was 16, regularly receiving updates about her.

I found out about Lattitude at a University Open Day. After spending most of the Open Day talking with those on the Lattitude Stall I decided to pursue this rather than applying for University (which I may do later). After doing some online research Lattitude seems to be one of the best as it matches my skills and interests in childcare and education with placement needs in a range of developing countries.

An experience that has helped me prepare for this gap year was a visit to The Gambia, Africa, in April this year. My college sponsors a local village there and normally arranges a trip for students each year. Unfortunately this year the college trip was cancelled due to lack of numbers. I was so disappointed that a friend and I spoke to the college tutor about arranging to go by ourselves. They talked through the risks about travelling alone to a third world country and when satisfied we would take all precautions gave us the contact details of the local charity there who help organise the college visits. After persuading our parents (not easy), we booked the trip through a travel agent the same week and emailed the local contacts to arrange tours, visits to the village and volunteering at the school.

When we arrived it was a complete culture shock from the airport and travelling to the hotel, and to be honest it took us a few days to adapt. However after this we thoroughly enjoyed it, and the experience, particularly in the school, was better than I could ever have imagined. I felt so much older and more confident coming back home. Although it was only a week, this has given me the confidence to know that I am doing the right thing in taking this gap year.

Why Fiji? To be honest I had hardly heard of Fiji but when I read about it on the Lattitude website it jumped out at me. It looks to be a beautiful country best known for tropical beaches but there is also poverty. Fiji depends on international aid for many development projects, such as schools and hospitals. Almost two-thirds of children who drop out of school do so because of poverty. (Save the Children Fund Fiji).

My placement is at Hilton Special School in Suva, which is the capital of Fiji. I will be leaving in the hostel with some of the staff and those children who are resident. There will be one other volunteer living with me. As she is from Canada I havent met her yet but we have emailed.

In November I attended a briefing day for those who will be going to Fiji and met some of the others who will be going. This made it all seem real and it wont be long now before we set off on 13th January.

Of course I am a bit nervous. I feel that the main challenge for me will be missing my family and friends, and adapting to a completely different way of life. Past volunteers spoke about this on the briefing day as completely normal. They also said that the other main challenge I feel will be getting close to the children I work with and finding it difficult to leave at the end of the trip. However at the same time I am excited about going so very mixed feelings at the moment! At the moment I am preparing for the trip, trying to think of all the things I might need which I may not be able to get there. My family has been very supportive I know my mum and dad are worried but trying not to show it!

Thats it for now. I will write my next report when I get there I cant wait!!




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