Thursday, 28 February 2013

My Project Trust Selection Course. Part 1.

Project Trust.
Thought I’d tell you about my Project Trust experience when I went up there for my Selection Course. I was on holiday in Devon, so I travelled from Tiverton train station, changing at Birmingham, Glasgow, Dalmuir and ending up at Oban. It seems that the first challenge was getting there! 

Unfortunately for me, I was not very confident with catching trains and I had lost my voice completely. Birmingham was a very complicated train station but I managed to find my next train. I then arrived at Glasgow, which was a rather large ordeal! Having got off the train and going to the electronic boards to see which platform I needed to find I discovered that my train was not up on the boards and because it was a Sunday there were no staff on duty… I attempted to ask some people but the station was so loud and I had no voice so I started to panic. Thinking about it now I should have just written my question on a piece of paper but in the moment I was rather panicky.  All of the offices were closed so I walked around and thankfully right in the corner of the station there was one small office open and after whispering as loudly as I could manage into the microphone, the nice lady told me where I needed to be. Full of relief I went off to find my platform only to experience that it was a long, long way away. It felt a bit like Hogwarts from Harry Potter as I kept descending down these dark corridors deeper and deeper into the underground of Glasgow. There were not many people down on these platforms but my platform kept having the down arrow. It was rather medieval, there was not even the usual advertising you see at stations, just dark, bare walls. Also I had a rather large bag and there were no escalators! At long last with about 15 minutes to spare I found my platform, so deep under Glasgow that there was no signal.  The train was late so I got worried I was on the wrong platform. There was a girl on the platform who had a big bag and looked about my age so I thought maybe she was going to Project Trust too. After some awkward whispered sentences I found out she was getting the same train but she was going to Project Oceana to work on a boat. We sat on the train together and shortly arrived at Dalmuir. After a very long wait and a shared Twix the train arrived for the final leg of my journey.  Again, we sat together but also with another girl. A first awkward silence but then the girl asked me where I was going. It was a nice surprise to find out that we were both going to the Project Trust Selection Course and that she was staying in the same Youth Hostel as me (her name is Roberta) so I automatically relaxed knowing it would not be as difficult to find the youth hostel alone. We had conversations through me writing and her speaking.  I have never been up the west coast and it was beautiful. Coming from Norfolk, it is not often I get to appreciate hills! My end stop was Oban. It took me 11 hours to get there and was quite an experience for sure. However I thought it was good preparation for my days on Coll. If I could manage to get all the right trains up to Oban with no voice and 0% confidence about taking a train, well – already I have learnt something and I was sure the journey down would be a lot easier!

So Roberta and I left the train saying goodbye to the other girl and went to find Oban Backpackers Plus. It seems that in the other carriages there had been a lot of other people travelling to get to Coll the next day as a long trail of us headed off in search for the hostel. Roberta and I were first to arrive. It was a friendly looking place with lots of sofas and painted walls. We got told what room we were in, opened the door to a large room with 5 bunk beds and already a room full of happy looking girls. Our beds had names, mine was called "American Pie." The attention was turned to us as we entered with Roberta saying hello to everyone and me smiling, waiting for it to get a bit quieter so I could whisper and explain the situation with my voice (I’m not entirely sure why I lost it as I was not ill but I have my suspicions it could be because the night before I was laughing and shouting at the telly watching Tom Dailey get his Olympic medal…). Luckily they all found it funny and we stood around swapping travel stories, where we came from, what time we needed to leave to get the ferry and what on earth we were to expect from our few days with Project Trust. We really had not been told much. They just told us what time to be at the ferry and that someone will be there to meet us. Our Kit list was something along the line of; Pens, paper, coat, hat, gardening gloves, change of scruffy clothes, wellie boots and something smart for the last night ceilidh. I imagined the Selection Course to be mostly outside.

We got up in the morning to get to the ferry that was to leave at 8am. It was obvious who was going to Project Trust, we all looked the same age with the same amount of luggage. The ferry journey was enjoyable and I met even more people. It was a struggle to communicate as I still had no voice but everyone was very friendly and patient with me and found the whole situation rather funny. A lot of the hopeful volunteers were from Scotland and had very strong accents but there were a few from various places in England. The views from the ferry were very pretty with lots of little islands. 

Coll was the first stop so we all left the ferry and were met by Project Trust staff in two minibuses and a Landrover. I ended up in the Landrover and encountered a very bumpy ride to the Project Trust Hebridean Center, which is a very sweet looking whitewashed building. Feeling a little bit nervous, we all entered the building, down a narrow corridor and into a room with lots of chairs. We were warmly welcomed and given forms to fill out and given a timetable of what we would be up to in the next few days. I will admit I was surprised by how much there was to cover in the next few days and that we really were going to be very busy; I knew it was going to be a challenge but the Project Trust staff’s enthusiasm was infectious and apart from the worry of not having a voice and hoping this would not count against me too much, I was very much looking forward to getting started. Project Trust have a Desk Officer for each country, it is their job to look after and check up on the volunteers in that country.  They all introduced themselves and I was happy to recognize Jen - who is the Desk Officer for Honduras, as she gave my school talk, which is what made me want to take a year out.

My Host Families House.
We were put in small groups that we would be staying in all week to do our activities. I was in Group A and my Team Leader was Tom who is really nice and thankfully sympathetic to the fact that I could only whisper! I would say my group all had very different characters and they were all great people to spend my few days with. 
We were given a task to make a stand that would hold up a heavy dictionary. We had to make it out of straws that cost money and we had the option to use pins but they cost money too. It was to make us think about being effective but resourceful. We all agreed that triangles are the strongest structure and ended up with an odd looking stand. All of the other groups joined us back in the hall and every group’s stand was tested. A lot crushed immediately. Ours worked quite well and did not collapse straight away so we were pleased! It was also a good icebreaker but the general atmosphere at Project Trust is so warm and friendly that I think we would have been fine without an icebreaker.
Our next task was a big challenge; we were told that we had 20 minutes to prepare a 10-minute lesson on anything. We just had a white board. It was difficult to think of something off the top of my head and I ended up explaining some philosophy – Plato’s Cave Analogy. I think it went ok but I was very nervous and shaking a lot! It was a good experience though and afterwards we shared thoughts and opinions on how to improve. The rest of the day involved a history lesson about Coll as we had to prepare a presentation for the end of the week, some delicious food and being grouped up with housemates for we were to be living with a host family in the evenings. I was grouped with three lovely girls; Lauren, Iona, Amy and Natasha. We were all very different but got on very well and I really enjoyed their company. One girl, Iona, has a very strong Scottish accent and I could hardly understand her at all! Also Scottish people say “wee” a lot instead of “little” so I was laughing at how Scottish they were whilst they were laughing at how English I am. My host family told us lots of information about Coll, which helped us get prepared for our personal presentations for later in the week and we were fed very well.
Lauren, Amy, Natasha, Me and Iona at our host family.

This was just the journey and the first day up at Coll. It was such a good experience that I thought i'd share it with you.

 I'll be adding part 2 to by blog soon.


  1. Hi, i have my selection week at the end of august and i am really looking forward to it - and your comments are really encouraging. I was just wondering though, what type of things do i need to bring with me as PT have been really vague, and did you take yours in a holdall or a suitcase? Good luck with your project! Thank you :)

  2. Hello. Selection is so much much you will have a fantastic time if you get really involved. I would recommend brining wellie boots and a coat for outside. Then casual clothes, a pair of jeans you don't mind getting a bit muddy! Then a dress (assuming you are a girl!!) for the end of the week scottish dance. And loads of paper and pens as you will be doing a lot of writing! I brought a huge suitcase which was completely unnecessary so i would take a big rucksack or a smallish bag. You really don't need much :) Hope you have a fantastic time! The Project Trust staff are just AMAZING! If you're considering a gap year these are honestly the best people to do it with.

  3. Hi, so I know that you went away with Project Trust a few years ago but I was just wondering if you could perhaps answer some questions I have? I'm going to selection in a few weeks and I'm a bit worried about the 10 minute lesson. I was just wondering if you have any advice on this or perhaps on how to prepare for selection generally?