Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

14th August 2010

Ysabelle Thackery: Initial report

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Im Ysabelle Thackray, a 17 year old from Dunbar (Scotland) who decided it would be far too boring and make my mother far too content just to go straight to University. Instead I have decided to defer my place at Glasgow University for Medicine and will be jet setting off to South Africa for a year!

My decision to take a gap year was made final when we received a talk from Project Trust at school. Project Trust is an educational charity based in on the Isle of Coll. It sends 17-19 year olds all over the world to volunteer and live within a community for a whole year. The fact that it was one of the only gap year organisations (that I had come across) that allowed for a whole year overseas really appealed to me. It would allow me to completely immerse myself in a different culture and become a member of the community rather than just a tourist.

My journey began at a selection course on the Isle of Coll back in August 2009. Our activities ranged from teaching lessons and doing research for presentations to the more active side of things including digging lazy beds for hours in the pouring rain! After hearing about all the different countries and projects I decided this was definitely for me. I was therefore elated when my letter came through the post a few weeks later saying I had been selected to volunteer with Project Trust with my first choice being India.

The first big task was fundraising, with a target of £4850 to reach. When I received a letter in December informing me of a deadline in just under a week for £1000 I panicked. It was in this week that I nearly caved into the idea of spending a year in America working for my Aunty. However I started to arrange a ceilidh and made an agreement with myself that if it made any money I would carry on with Project Trust. Thankfully the ceilidh was a massive success and I raised over £1000. I also signed up for a half marathon and raised a large amount of sponsorship money from that. A feature in the local paper also helped immensely, I really appreciated the generosity of complete strangers and it gave me the confidence boost that I needed to convince me that this was definitely what I wanted to do for the next year of my life. Other fundraising events I did included a gig which raised £500 and regular bake sales in the school staff room. Another massive help in my fundraising was the generosity of charitable trusts like Hazels footprints. Thank you!

A few weeks before my training course I was given the news that I could no longer go to India but however there was a project in South Africa (my second choice) which would suit my interests perfectly. The project was the Mitchell House Enrichment Centre a school for Disabled children in Polokwane in the North East of South Africa. I will be working as a class room assistant working with small groups of children teaching basic maths, colours, art, sensory stimulation etc. Other opportunities in my project include working with children in an adjoining private school in after school clubs. Im really excited about this and I think it will give me great experience for my medicine degree.

I attended my training course in July. The journey to Coll wasnt the most pleasant, a five and a half hour ferry journey on very rough seas! However we eventually made it there and it ended up a very informative and fun affair. We covered the basics of living overseas including culture shock, health, housekeeping and sex, drugs and alcohol. Along with how to deal with children with behavioural problems and troubled pasts and advice on arranging clubs and classes, we were given tips on how to make the most of our year and also received brilliant first hand advice from Yvonne, a South African woman who ran a childrens home in Durbanville. I also met everyone who was going over to South Africa including the two girls I would be living with for a whole year! Thankfully they were lovely and I left Coll feeling like Id known them forever.

So Ive come to end of part one of my journey with Project Trust and Im set to start part 2 on the 27th of August at 8 oclock at Heathrow airport! I go through phases of elated highs and bursts of excitement to moments of sheer terror and what have I done! Im really going to miss my family, friends and my boyfriend and I know that homesickness might be quite an issue at first. However I also know that after a wee while I will be up and away and undoubtedly wont want to leave after designating South Africa my new home! I cant wait to experience a different culture and way of life. In fact I think I will fit in quite well, especially with the whole African Time concept (I cant remember the last time I was actually on time let alone early for something!)

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