Ex-volunteer Goes Back to School!

Lucy Patterson, who volunteered with AidCamps for the first time in 2006 at the age of 18, recently returned to her former school to let sixth formers know about the benefits of volunteering overseas and the difference it can make to your life and the lives of the people you're hoping to help.  The following update is Lucy's experience in her own words.

"On 30th January, I spent the morning at my old secondary school in Dartmouth. Quite a lot has changed since I completed my GCSEs there in 2003: it is has gained ‘Academy' status, after decades of being a Community College; it has doubled in size, with glassy, wind-powered buildings in place of old, damp pre-fab huts; and it has started taking on sixth-form students. I had come to talk to these sixth-formers, to tell them a little about what I did after leaving Dartmouth, and to encourage those among them who might be considering a gap-year, to try volunteering with AidCamps International.

When I finished my A-levels at a nearby sixth-form centre, I decided to take some time out before heading to university. I had my heart set on travelling. I wanted to go somewhere exciting and different, although, having never been on a plane in my life, I was looking for something structured which might help to ease me in to a different culture. I found the search a little disheartening: every organisation seemed to offer projects which were too long, too expensive, or too far detached from the communities they aimed to help.

When I found the AidCamps website, I felt as if I had struck gold. Within minutes I had decided upon my project – a classroom project in Tamil Nadu, India – and I signed up straight away. The duration of the project meant that I could use it as a launch-pad for travelling across India afterwards; the price was realistic and achievable; and AidCamps' commitment to working in partnership with local communities and charities was a real selling point! I took on a couple of shop jobs and organised a piano concert to raise funds for my trip. 

Getting involved with AidCamps at any age is a fantastic experience, but travelling to India to take part in an AidCamp at the age of eighteen was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It may be a cliché, but it really opened my eyes to the world, and gave me a sense of perspective and purpose I have carried with me ever since. I am now in my final year of university and hope to work in the charity sector when I graduate. Plus, I've become a project leader, and will be leading my first AidCamp this summer, in Sri Lanka! The world really has opened up for me since taking part on the project in India.

Lucy at a Gypsy Camp in Tamil Nadu, 2006

This was the message I wanted to convey to the students at Dartmouth Academy: that it is very easy, living in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, to believe that exciting things happen to other people, and that many experiences are available only to those privileged with money, time and other luxuries. That was how I viewed the world, until I found AidCamps.

Thanks to Dartmouth Academy for hosting my talk, and good luck to all the 6th formers taking their AS/A-levels/BTECs this year!"

Lucy Patterson


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