July 2018, I went to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in the Caribbean for 6 weeks to take part in a voluntary project working at the Danny Scrubb Summer School on Union Island. My Experiences was an amazing experience that I would never forget. This trip was my first voluntary experience aboard. TO be honest the thought of going to St. Vincent was daunting as I didn’t have any connection to SVG and going out there would be doing something outside of my comfort zone.
How I found out about The Daneford Trust was through a family friend, Miss Thomas who has been a friend of the Trust for many years. She was one of the co-founders of the Danny Scrubb Summer School. She told me about what the school entailed, and this had me thinking about the amazing things I could do out there.
A little about myself, I work as a study support assistant (SSA) in a college in North London called Barnet Southgate College. The students I support are young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. They have from mild to severe learning disabilities this also includes physical disabilities such as Rhetts Syndrome and Spinal Bifida. When I went for this job spoke to my family who are from the Caribbean (Guyana) it was known that people with learning disabilities are not treated with the respect that everyone deserved and being called disrespectful names such as ‘retarded’ or ‘dumb’. This pushed me to want to try and make a change in that and help them to see that they are people too.
So, before I embarked on this remarkable trip, I had to do a lot of preparation in a short amount of time, 2 months to be exact. I met with Darius along with another volunteer, Rochelle. Together we created our leaflets which outlined the reasons for the trip and the breakdown of the budget which included; airfare, rent, food and personal experiences. Once we had the leaflet made, I had to write letters to various charities alongside the leaflet to ask for possible funding. Once I receive a couple of responses from some of the charities, I realised that I was able to do this, Fundraising was looking crazy to do this but the more replies I received the more grateful that felt I was able to get closer to my goal of £2000.
Speaking to Darius, we spoke about our fundraising projects. So, we took part in a sponsored walk from Mary Seacole’s Memorial Cemetery in Kensal Rise to Claudia Jones’ Cemetery in Highgate. With the help of my colleague’s, family and friends I was very fortunate to raise £450 towards my trip.
I was talking to a church friend about my amazing trip and said that she had some jewellery that she was going to donate to me so that I could sell. Upon receiving the jewellery there are two bags for life full of it. I was extremely grateful for it. I sold them at work and made £250.
I also had the idea given to me to have a ‘lime’ in which my fellow volunteer and I changed to having a quiz night. This was held at the Hackney Caribbean Elderly Organisation Centre in Stoke Newington. This was held a week before we were set to go. The event was successful in raising £263.05 which was split between the two of us. I had friends and family donate on my Virgin money giving page which I raise £297.50.
Plus, a family that didn’t want to use the computer just donated to me and my mum. While we were fundraising, we had to wait for accommodation as it was being organised by Miss Thomas for Union Island, however, we needed accommodation on the mainland. My fellow volunteer managed to find accommodation.
When I Arrived
Friday 6th June –Tuesday – 10th June
My flight was at 11.10 in the morning at Gatwick which is where I met with Rochelle. We arrived in SVG at 9 pm and it was already pitch black. Joel, a friend of Rochelle’s sister met us at the airport and taken us to his house where we were staying. When we arrived, we were right in the middle of Carnival season which we managed to partake in before embarking on our voluntary trip. So, we were able to stay until Tuesday. Joel showed us the local bank and where we would be able to change our money, he also should us around the beautiful island.
We left St. Vincent and arrived on Union Island by boat. It was a 4-hour journey where we saw all the islands of the Grenadines which was absolutely breathe taking. Rochelle and I met two of the other Volunteers of the Daneford Trust, Mia and Beauty and was all oriented with the local area, the bank, shops, the school we were going to volunteer at and where we were going to stay.
I was spoken to by Miss James (Who is the headteacher of the school) and Miss Thomas (Founder) of where we were working and which class we were working with, I was given a group that had slight learning disabilities and challenging behaviours. I was given a timetable of what the typical day was going to be.
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I was also given the opportunity to start an art class where the students design their own bags with their own artistic flair. I bought canvas bags form from eBay and sent it sent SVG beforehand. These arrived a week after the summer school started.
I had a class of 10 to 16 students that I was working with. I had brought over work resources that I would be able to use in the lessons such as the alphabet, numbers, colouring pens and pencils, pictures with colours on and worksheets.
Each day we would start one activity such as English which was looking at the letters. We then looked at the word started with that letter for example A for Apple or Ant. With the numbers we looked at the numbers and the students would have to put them in to order. This would then bring us to lunch which was provided by the school. It was amazing food and the students enjoy it.
In the afternoon the students would go to their activities such as sports, fishing, dance and drumming. Some of the students I had were too small to do the other activities so we played games like musical chairs or hot potatoes or relay which the children really enjoyed.
Cleaning Up the Lagoon
On Friday at the summer school the students were invited by an environment team to clean the Lagoon in Ashton. The children needed to be there for 6 am to start the clean-up. The event was successful, and it was a great turn out. Once the clean-up was finished, we all went back to the school to carry on with their learning journey. I did a catch up about what I taught them during the week. I asked them questions and they would give me the answer.
On Saturday 40 to 60 student with staff took a trip Mayreau on a catamaran called Sky Flirt. It took us about half an hour to get there, once we were there, we split up into two groups. One group went on a tour and the other stayed on the beach. I stayed at the beach with some of the students and one with the staff. The kids really enjoyed it, and some went fishing with the crabs they found the day before. Once the other group came back everyone was able to get into the sea and enjoyed splashing around. Most of the kids had never taken a step off Union Island so it was nice to see as the smile on their face.
Later in the evening some of the students and teaching facility went to honour a teacher on her birthday that had taught them how to dance in the traditional way. The girls did a few performances where some adults joined in. There was a maypole dance which the boys played the drums to. It was a nice way to get an idea of what some of the cultures are on Union Island.
Sunday, I went to lunch at Miss Thomas mum’s house to have lunch which was lovely; It was good Caribbean hearty food. I then planned out my lessons for the final week.
The next week I had the same planning of the week as last week. Going over their colours and spelling. We looked at the months and what is usually associated with it. The children seemed to enjoy what they were learning.
In the afternoon I took the Art class which had 30 students in it. The first lesson I got the children to give me ideas about what they would find in their environment. The children came up with some great ideas. So, I got the kids to draw me what they would like to draw on their bag. The next day I had them think about the colour and textures and what kind of paints that they wanted to use.
Some of the students wanted to tie-dye their bags which the other volunteer and I had bought from London so on day three the children that remained were able to design it. During the week we asked the children if they could bring in an old white t-shirt from home. With my group, I asked if they wanted to tie-dye their bags or design them.
On the last day the day started as normal until 12pm. I went over what I helped them with over that last two weeks. After that, the students had their lunch and proceeded to the closing ceremony for the student where parents could come and see the amazing work that their children had done and showcase their talents. Some of the children performed songs and dances and drumming. The two primary school headteachers each given a donation.
So, with the project finished I had to find another project. I heard about the Brownies from the mainland of Saint Vincent was coming up the following week. So, I had a couple of days to unwind and was able to see the other islands. I made friends with a couple of people that ran boat rides to the different islands then provide food afterwards. I went to palm island where there was a hotel on it and a beautiful sandy beach. Also went to an island called lle Morpion which was a tiny island with just an umbrella that was made with wood and leaves. The island was so small that I walked around it in 5 minutes and then I relaxed and enjoyed the waves. This island will disappear every evening. I went to petite Martinique which was nice however it rained all day, but it was a good place to get duty free items.
Week Three and Four
I met with the leader of the brownies and the girl guides and asked if we could help out and explained that I was out there volunteering and she was happy for the help and asked us to come back a couple of days as they had excursion that they had already planned and they were days that they would be back at base a couple of days.
I helped during the sports day I helped with keeping score and organising the activities. The girls really enjoyed the show. On their last day, I was able to interview a couple of girls which was recorded by the other volunteer. I asked them about what it takes to be a girl guide /brownie and how they think it will help them in the future.
Last Week Of The Trip
We had 1 week left and decided to go to Grenada with the other volunteer for a couple of days. It was their carnival, so it seems fitting to end how we started. It was and another 4-hour journey which was beautiful seeing all the islands that belonged to Grenada like Petite Martinique etc.
This trip was absolutely amazing I would definitely recommend any young person to go and volunteer in another country. I truly found out a lot about myself. I always believe that I was a strong person, but I realised that I was even stronger than I thought I was. I even found my independence and knowing that I can do anything I put my mind too. I also learnt to trust my gut feeling about some of the people and situations I was in.
I would like to say thank you to everyone that helped me to achieve this amazing opportunity:
- My family members in London and the states especially my mum who was my driving force to putting myself in to shape.
- My God Parents
- Tony Stevens and Darius Baird (The Daneford Trust) for helping me every step of the way.
- Rochelle (The other volunteer) Having someone else out there
- Joel – From the mainland that help us when we first arrived
- Miss James from the Danny Scrubb Summer School
- Miss Thomas for telling me about this opportunity hand support me while being out there.
- My Colleagues of Barnet and Southgate College for supporting me with everything and donating every chance they had.
- My Brothers and Sisters in the Lord from Edmonton Baptist Church
- The Ken Biggs Charitable Trust
- Daneford Trust and Lorraine Anderson