Don’t worry I’m still here! I have been back in Scotland for a month now and it seems like my time has been split between wishing I was back in Honduras and pretending I am by doing a PT road trip to see Amy in Surrey, Jesse in London and Lucy in Edinburgh.
The last step of the Project Trust journey, after the inevitable, crippling reverse culture shock, is Debriefing. It’s our last chance to get up to Coll and spend a few days surrounded by the only people that are still willing to listen to gap year story after gap year story. It’s not a compulsory course like Training but out of our 20 Honduras volunteers we managed to get 16 of us there – Hannah, Eve, Alice and Norome, you were missed. We were reunited with some of the volunteers we were on Training with who went to Zambia and also had Malawi, Japan and the Domincan Republic volunteers with us. Because we have such a large group, even with our missing members, we made up more than half of the total number!
I took the train up to Oban for the first time, having had a lift and then taken the bus for my previous journeys, and it was incredibly beautiful. There was a big group of us on the train and we were reunited with everyone else in the beloved Backpackers Plus hostel.
We had two full days back in the Hebridean Centre. The first day was based primarily on looking back on the year we spent overseas. We worked in our country groups with our Overseas Coordinator to look back on our best bits and the challenges we overcame while away. We ended the day with a trip to the gorgeous beach (only gorgeous because it was so sunny!).
Day two focused more on looking forward to how we, as returned volunteers, can stay involved in the PT community. The sense that you get as part of one of Project Trust’s many groups of volunteers is very much one of family. These people that you have been sent away to the other side of the world with you quickly become your family but on coming home it’s like meeting all the extended aunts and uncles and cousins that are all there for you. Just like in Honduras, everyone is related! There are Facebook groups and reunions and local meet ups and professional opportunities all to be found among the 7,700 and something returned volunteers, dating all the way back to 1967!
It has been almost a week since the ‘official’ end of my year overseas but definitely not the end of my involvement. Project Trust are always looking for people to go into schools and talk to pupils about their experiences, inspire the next generation of teachers and social care workers and adventurers for them to send all over the world. With Global Citizenship being such a large part of going overseas with Project Trust, returned volunteers also go out to schools and run workshops on this in primary and secondary schools. With the experience I have of this from my fundraising, I think if I hadn’t signed up I would have been chased from Coll and told never to return! Finally, as part of a new scheme, you can become a mentor to a volunteer who is in the process of fundraising for their year abroad – you can share your top tips and secret strategies as well as all your best stories (probably best to keep the bad ones under wraps to begin with!).
As ever, no Project Trust course or visit to Coll would be complete without a ceilidh to finish things off in style! What with there being two Latin American countries in attendance, traditional Scottish dancing soon morphed into a reggaeton/bachata party!
Leaving Coll the next morning was a sad affair, though I hope to be back next year as summer staff. Once again, the train back down to Glasgow was filled with PT people. Amy stayed one more night at my house before flying back down to Surrey. This was our final goodbye for the summer, after having seen each other three or four times since getting home. I know it won’t be that last goodbye however, as we already have plans for a trip to Prague at Christmas with Jesse and Lucy and Amy is coming up to Edinburgh for a rugby match in February.
As for the rest of my Honduran lot, there were a few goodbyes in Oban and some more when we got off the train in Glasgow. A few people stuck around in Edinburgh for a few days and we had one last night out together before we all went our separate ways. However, apparently there’s already a reunion in the works and I’ll be at uni with Hannah and Eva in Edinburgh, with a lot of people not far away in the likes of Glasgow and Aberdeen.
Coll is such special place because of all it embodies. It is an integral part of any volunteer’s Project Trust journey. It is there for you on Selection when everything is filled with excitement and you can’t wait to get started. It is there on Training when you are are wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. It is there to welcome you home on Debriefing, showing you that it’s not all bad to be back. It encompasses the heart of Project Trust and all the people you meet along the way, from the staff to the other volunteers even to the people you meet in your project. Coll is a place I love and will always love for I will forever associate it with the best year of my life.