Friday, 10 May 2013


After months of tentatively answering questions like "when are you going" and "are you definitely going to Guyana" with grunts of "um not sure really", it is a relief to finally say my project has indeed been confirmed and that my estimated departure date is the 17th August.

Chenapou will be my destination, a remote village of about 500 inhabitants on the banks of the Potaro, 3 hours journey by speedboat upriver from the famous Kaieteur falls. Here there is a primary school of 170 pupils, where Project Trust volunteers have been teaching for four years, as very few qualified Guyanese teachers are prepared to work in such a remote area.

There is very little information to be found on Chenapou, although a google search returns a page from the government website about Kaieteur National Park. In summary, the local people are from the Patamona Tribe and have their own dialect, although English is also spoken. Their way of life is still very much dependant on the forest and the river, with a considerable amount of their diet consisting of different forms of the root vegetable Cassava. They make Cassava into a powder called Farine, they make bread from it, they even make drinks out of it.

My accommodation will be a semi-detached house on stilts, presumably shared with my partner, which is even fancy enough to have a flushing toilet and solar panels to provide electricity.

Not that it reveals anything at all, you can view the location of Chenapou or Chenapowu as it seems to be alternatively spelt, on google maps here. The satellite image reveals it to be in the middle of a mysterious pixelated cloud. I find this makes it all the more exciting!

For now it is a case of getting vaccines, disclosures, references, letters... filling in all the paperwork and waiting for training in July when I'll find out the full details about my project and find out who I'm going with.

Below are some photos taken by a current volunteer in Chenapou who has a blog here.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Gig for Guyana (and the Arctic)

In some ways reaching the fundraising target for Project Trust in January felt like a bit of a disappointment. I thought I was just getting into the fundraising mindset, starting to enjoy the challenges it presented. For me it was a completely new skill, and that £5432.10 countdown figure provided a goal to strive for, providing some extra motivation when the pressures of school or music were not enough. And of course, it is always working towards the goal that provides all the satisfaction, not achieving the goal itself- it is about the journey, not the destination. So "completing" the fundraising seemed like a dead end. Until I realised that it wasn't.

For a start, any further money I raise for the charity Project Trust can be used to help other volunteers who have been less fortunate than myself with their fundraising for any reason. This is something that I see as a good cause, and I do not doubt that Project Trust will use the money wisely. Secondly, there are plenty of costs associated with my year overseas that are not covered by the £5400, including vaccinations and  travel to and from the Isle of Coll for my training course. For this I have set up a second fund, so that donations can still be made that will directly go towards my project. And, if nothing else, fundraising can be great fun, and I didn't want to see all my plans go to waste!

One such plan that I felt was too good to ditch simply because it was no longer necessary, was a fundraiser gig at a music venue close to my school in the centre of Dundee called "Non Zero's", (I have the owner, a great guy named Dave, to thank for letting me hire the place for the night, and for his professional live sound engineering which is a crucial part of any musical event). This event soon became a collaboration, after I talked to Katie Lumsdaine, an adventurous girl in the year below me at school who is spending her summer in the Arctic with the British Schools Exploring Society.

The Courier- Katie's Arctic Expedition

She was looking for events to help her raise the money for this expedition, and I was someone with an event, looking for somewhere that needed the funds it could raise. We decided to split the profits, but I reckon that her help in publicising the event meant that I personally raised more for Project Trust than I would have if I had been on my own for the event.  My strength was providing the music, finding the bands, hers was spreading the word, selling the tickets. Together we made it quite a success.

The photos below were taken by Jamie Ford and Linzi Peters and show most of the musicians performing. I'm sad to say I have none of the headlining act- two members of the Dundee band Seams played a stunning acoustic set which was the perfect atmospheric ending to the evening.

Alison Ross

Honolulu Circus

The finale of Lewis Davie's set, including brass section and saxophones!

Katie and Harry, going to two very different places!

Bedford Rascals
After expenses, the gig raised around £250, which I was incredibly pleased with. I know that our target audience- teenagers- is not an easy one to raise money from, as most of them are pushed to find enough cash for themselves. Seeing so many people turn up for the gig in support of both my gap year and Katie's expedition was fantastic, I hope they all enjoyed themselves as much as I did!

In total I have now raised over £7000 for Project Trust, which is something that I feel proud to have achieved. All that is left now is to start putting that money to good use.