Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

14th July 2011

Maya Walker: Initial report

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Me – Mum…Im off to Cambodia for a year.

Mum Oh, are you? Thats nice. Bye, then – have fun!

I announced this proudly to my Mum exactly a year ago this week, after coming home from our Post 6th Form Opportunities Fair, at which I attended a talk from a returned Project Trust volunteerI never really thought or believed that this brief, joke-like conversation would actually materialise into anything (let alone that Mum and Dad would agree to it)

It was just by chance I wandered into the little meeting on the dayeveryone else seemed as though they had talks they wanted to go to; medical students, potential business entrepreneurs they all had places to go and times to be there. And there was me, looking at the notice board with absolutely NO idea which assembly I wanted to go to. Project Trust. No idea who they are or what they do. Ill go there!

I stumbled in a tad late, trying (and failing) not to attract too much attentionand that was where my journey with Project Trust began!

After reading up about the charity with my parents online and in the leaflets I had picked up, I started to really like the idea! I had no solid plans for post 6th Form, and it just made so much sense. It would be the perfect opportunity to travel, help others, and generally do something exciting and different!

At the start, my heart was set on Cambodia. The main project mentioned during the talk was a medical one in the country and it sounded perfect (as I hope to be a Paramedic some day). But over time, I started to like the idea of the African projects, and after attending a 5 day selection course on the Isle of Coll, I was offered a placement in South Africa (my first choice)!!!

Naturally, a care or medical based project appealed to me, and when I received my mid-May placement letter, I was delighted to hear that I had been chosen to volunteer at a new project, Cotlands Baby Sanctuary Somerset West, South Africa. It sounded perfectI would be looking after around 40 babies and children between the ages of 0-9 who have been orphaned by HIV, or who suffer from the virus themselves. My job would be to provide medical care for conditions such as malnourishment, and generally look after the children (bathing, dressing, changing etc).

However, a few weeks later, I got a call from Project Trust informing me that my placement had fallen through, and that Cotlands were unable to take on any Project Trust volunteers until next year. At first, I was devastated to hear the news, but I guess with it being a new project, it was inevitable, and this is what the Project Trust experience is all about not knowing what to expect, and just taking everything as it comes.

The staff on Coll have worked extremely hard to get a new placement suitable for me. After what seems like hundreds of phone calls, and discussing several projects in Uganda and Namibia, news came through that a placement in South Africa had become available!

Thembelihle is a home of safety for around 25 children aged 5 to 18 who have been physically and/or mentally abused by their parents and carers. As a volunteer, my main role will be as a teacher; planning and organising the childrens timetables, lessons and exams from scratch, before teaching a wide range of subjects, covering a broad curriculum. The facilities in the home are very basic, and the classroom is limited to one room in the courtyard of the home, so I will need to use my initiative and creativity to make sure the children get the best education possible.

As well as home schooling, Thembelihle provides for the psychological needs of the children. The nature of the backgrounds from which the children come from, means that they lack the love, care, stability and security needed by children of their age, and it will be my role as their primary carer, to enable them to develop their social skills through a range of extra-curricular activities which I will organise and run. Im really looking forward to helping their social workers ensure they are set up for the best future arrangements, whether it be a return to their families, or to new foster parents. Living in the home with the children 24/7 is going to be tough, but it means I will have the opportunity to get to know the children better, and provide additional care; reading bedtime stories for example. Although this may seem like a simple task, it is often what the children appreciate most, as it is something which many of them will have been denied at home. Reading up about Thembelihle online has made me even more excited about my year out! It sounds like such an amazing and worthwhile charity and I cant wait to fly out there to be a part of it!

The prospect of raising £4950 for Project Trust was extremely daunting, but once I got into the swing of things, it became a lot of fun and I have been overwhelmed by the support received from friends, family and also complete strangers! I would just like to take this opportunity now to thank every single one of you at Hazels Footprints Trust, and everyone else who has contributed towards my fundraising, as without your help and support I would not be able to say that I have reached over three-quarters of my target THANK YOU! –

Now that my A-levels are (finally!) over, I can concentrate on completing my fundraising and I plan to do loads of research into the project and the history of South Africa. Its just 11 days until training up on Coll, and I cant wait to meet my project partner and country group! The course will give me the opportunity to ask any questions before departure in August, and learn essential skills required for a year overseas! Best of luck to all the other Footprinters with their adventures safe travels!

Until Africa

Maya -xxx-

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