Project Trust – much more than a Gap Year

In October 2007, while holidaying on Coll, I visted the Project Trust and spent some time with its director, Lavinia Maclean-Bristol.

On the ferry home, I was able to spend time talking to the group of young people who had just completed their selection week for the programme, which is held on Coll. I was as impressed by their enthusiasm for Project Trust as by their maturity and sense of purpose. With two boys of my own, I could do far worse than point them in the direction of Project Trust for their gap year. 

I have edited the following information, which is taken from the 2007 report by ES Economics into the socio-economic value of Project Trust to the island of Coll. 

Project Trust was founded in 1967 by Nicholas Maclean-Bristol as an educational charity, with the aim of sending young people abroad to work alongside local communities and learn from them. Over the past 40 years around 5,500 volunteers have been sent overseas. 

Project Trust’s main philosophy is to provide young people with an opportunity to understand a community overseas by immersing themselves in it – living and working there for a year. Project Trust’s headquarters are on the island of Coll; overseas operations are supported by a network of local representatives in the countries concerned, and all projects are vetted by Project Trust staff. Over 50 countries have received Project Trust volunteers since 1967. 

The Trust operates from a purpose-built residential training centre on the island, accommodating up to 48 volunteers. The Centre has been used for occasional non-Project Trust uses, such as residential archaeology and ornithology courses.  

The island of Coll is one of Project Trust’s unique selling points (USPs). It allows a very high quality of selection and training to be undertaken in an environment far removed from the lifestyle of prospective volunteers. As such, it an ideal first step on a journey that will take them thousands of miles from home and require them to integrate in an environment that could prove far more challenging. Project Trust is further differentiated from other gap year organisations in that it is only open to school leavers, and overseas posts are for a full 12-month period. 

It is also worth pointing out that Project Trust is the main employer on Coll and supports 26% of its population directly. Its volunteers are all involved in community work during their selection week, and many staff members are involved with community organisations on the island. Find out more at www.projecttrust.org.uk  

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