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Volunteering in South Africa, Louise Eddie

Louise Eddie, is seeking to volunteer overseas with the Project Trust, a gap-year organisation. The teenager, from Dunfermline in Scotland, will travel to Johannesburg in South Africa to work with children at the Cotlands Baby Sanctuary, a non-governmental organisation offering shelter, medical and psychological care to abused and abandoned babies with AIDS.

The Project Trust provides young people with an opportunity to understand a community overseas by immersing themselves by living and working there for a year. The JWCT provided 500 to Louise in December 2008; Louise struggled to raise funds from their local community so the JWCT grant was very welcome.

Louise explained “I see my gap year as a unique opportunity in which I hope I will learn to understand a different culture and new way of life. I also believe it will have a huge impact on me as a person. I think it will enable me to be more open minded and willing to at least attempt anything. I am sure it will give me the courage to explore things for myself and have a different outlook on the world.


May 2010

I am Louise Eddie and last year I went on a gap year with Project Trust. I spent my time at an NGO called Cotlands. Cotlands is a national organisation in South Africa providing residential and home-based care to vulnerable children. I spent my year working at a children’s home in Turffontein an area in the south of Johannesburg . . .

My role at Cotlands was to fill in where best needed. I worked in a variety of different areas from the early shift in the hospice getting babies up, bathed and dressed for the day, filling in at the nursery school if they were short-staffed or helping out in the office with fundraising. In addition I had daily roles such as helping the school going children to complete their homework each evening.

As well as completing the tasks assigned to me while in South Africa I wanted to make a difference to the lives of the children on a personal level, no matter how small that difference may be. To do this I tried to act as a ‘big sister’ and teach the children skills that I was taught as a child. One of my proudest accomplishments of my year is teaching the 25 oldest children to swim. At the beginning of the year many had never been in a pool or were terrified of water. My friend Jessica and I spent hours every Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer in the pool with this group of children and now all the children are able to swim independently. It leaves me with such a sense of accomplishment to know I have left a lifelong skill with these kids.

The one thing which shocked me most when I first arrived was the lack of academic ability amongst the eldest children. The children were being asked to complete complex sums of long division or read chapters out of adult novels for homework. I found this utterly ridiculous as they could barely count to ten or recite the alphabet. Each evening after struggling through homework Jessica and I split the oldest children into groups and went ‘back to the basics’. At the end of my first four months at Cotlands the school year came to an end. We were invited along to school graduation and were thrilled at the thought most of our kids had passed that year and would be allowed to move onto the next grade come January. Much to our delight many of our children were actually receiving awards at prize-giving ceremony. Sifiso is 9 years old and when I first arrived he could not tell an ‘a’ apart from an ‘o’, at prize-giving Sifiso won most improved in reading. Kwanele is 10 years-old and he struggled to count to 10 without muddling numbers, at prize-giving he was awarded most-improved mathematician for the year. As I sat in the audience I had tears in my eyes and knew no reward for my effort could ever mean as much to me as their smiling little faces as they were handed certificates to commend their hard work throughout the previous four months. The children had gone from hating school and despising homework exercises to having a thirst for knowledge and a determination to do well in school.

. . . This summer I am returning to South Africa to work at Cotlands for three months. This experience has changed my outlook on the world and made me determined to leave my mark. I would like to thank you with all my heart for sponsoring me. I am very grateful to have had people support the opportunity which I had. Without a doubt it was definitely the best year of my life so far and it has opened my eyes to the million possibilities which are now at my feet.

The Jeremy Willson Charitable Trust
a charity registered in England and Wales. No. 1114871