Education · Travel · Volunteering

VSO Pre-Placement Training Day

“Fighting poverty through volunteering”

For the last four days, I’ve been shacked up in a hotel in the middle of nowhere with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ll have seen previously that I was selected to lead a team of volunteers in Zambia in September; and at the weekend I received some intense training for the role along with another 20 team leaders, all of whom will be going to somewhere in the world to make a long lasting, positive difference.

The weekend officially began on Friday, when we all arrived at the hotel for lunch. We gathered in the back garden of the hotel together and immediately there was a bit of a buzz, knowing that there was a group of like minded people whose personalities bounced off each other in the most perfect way.

Coincidently, there were two other people on our training day that were also a part of my assessment day back in May – Freya and Sam. It was lovely to see them again, and we were equally delighted at the fact that we were all chosen to be part of such wonderful projects across the world.

Thinking the weekend was going to be a relaxed and chilled out one was a big mistake, as we leaped straight in to learning sessions after lunch. This gave us an idea of how the whole weekend was going to go, and it was pretty intense throughout.

Each day had multiple, in-depth, interactive sessions, all with the purpose of preparing each of us for the inevitable risks of being part of these projects in developing countries across the world. But the group that we had made the long, drawn out days, much easier to cope with. The team had an arsenal of energisers to keep everyone focused, and to refresh our minds after being overloaded with information.

Some of the topics we covered were focused around keeping us safe and well when we were in our host countries, and helping prepare us in advance for adapting to an environment that is different than any other we’ve ever been a part of, some of which include the realities and risks of the projects and in particular, the medical risks.

In a sense, the purpose of the training weekend was to ensure that we were more worried than we were beforehand; because we needed to understand the risk of what we were going to be doing.

We went through many intricate details of the projects as a whole, and one of the main things that stood out to me was the idea of a curfew in our host communities. Staying out after dark and past curfew puts you in a risky situation, with crime and sexual assault scarily common in many of the communities.

As well as this, the health risks of going to the communities we are going to poses a potential problem, with malaria one of the biggest worries that our group tended to have. Access to safe drinking water is something that is not as readily available as it is back home, so it was another main concern that we had.

But on the flip side, even with all of the worries we had, the group were inspiringly positive and confident, particularly the return volunteers who were able to ease our worries.

At the end of each day, we all had dinner together before congregating as a group in the garden in which we were able to get to know each other a little better and share our own life stories. Yet each new day was another opportunity to learn more and be enriched by the people around us.

One of the activities that stood out the most throughout the weekend was a spontaneous idea from one of the group that involved writing your name on a post-it, and then passing it around so everyone could write a comment about you. This generated many smiles and much happiness, and was a simple and effective way to keep everyone engaged. As a bit of a cheesy tribute to the group, I’ve written a little about each person below; with the purpose of making them understand how much of an effect they had on me, and to enlighten others on the qualities they possessed.

In the meantime, I hope to keep you all updated on the wonderful project I will be a part of in Nyimba, Zambia – and I’m glad I am able to share my experience with you.


“A small group of determined and like minded people can change the course of history” – Mahatma Gandhi

Emma – Never change. Your intellect is inspiring and your enthusiasm is enchanting. Your welcoming nature made me feel particularly included and accepted in such an unfamiliar environment. I can never thank you enough. 

Freya – One of the youngest in the group, yet one of the most fearless people I have met, and likely to ever meet. You will go so far and your journey will inspire others to be more like you. You are wonderful – never doubt yourself. 

Sam There is a reason why you have come back for a second program. Your heart is so focused on making others happy, and this is an amazing trait to have in such a negative world. Your positive nature breeds positivity around you. 

Will  Never change Will. Your confidence and happiness is infectious. I smile every time I’m in your company. You have the ability to light up a room from just your presence. 

Sarah – Your ability to enchant others from the words you use is a skill I only wish I had. You are a storyteller, and a great one at that. You must never let go of that, continue to inspire and educate others. 

Sarah M Immediately you made me feel welcomed. Your personality and charm is infectious; and you have the ability to light up a room just by being in it. How lucky am I to be traveling with you to Zambia? See you in September. 

Tash – You are such a pleasant person to be around. You contribute in such a endearing way – and I can’t help but be transfixed by what you say. Your positive attitude is contagious, and you have the ability to generate happiness in the environment you are in. 

Hannah J – You are incredibly intelligent – every time you contribute, I feel like I have learnt something. You have a fantastic knack for inadvertently making others think outside the box without even realising. 

Molly – Your ‘jolly good’ attitude is so comforting. I feel at ease in your presence, and you are able to make one laugh so easily.  You will go far; because you come across in such an amazing way and are inclusive of others. Always stay the same. 

Hannah T – I find your knowledge and life experience inspiring. Every time you spoke, I learnt something new. You have the ability to educate and inform others just by being you. This is a wonderful quality. Thank you for all the advice you gave. 

Kat Your life experience is immensely admirable and has impacted the group as a whole. When you speak, others listen intently because everything you say is so absorbing. You are a fascinating human. 

Jade – You captivate the room when you speak, because people are so interested in what you have to say. You are so refreshing to be around, and your openness is a quality that should make you feel proud.

Fiona You are so graceful and eloquent – making everyone around you feel at ease. Your ideas and contributions are so important, and your positivity is something that makes others comfortable around you. 

Charley You are one of the most intelligent people I have had the pleasure of coming across. Your compassion and kindness is something that is not found often. You should never change, because you can and will change the world. 

Izzy – You are one of the kindest people I’ve met. You give to others without a second thought, and this is a trait that shapes your personality in such a beautiful way. We need more people like you in this world. 

Larissa – You were the first person to welcome me in the group. You are inclusive, positive and ready to change the world. I am so proud to be traveling to Zambia with such an inspiring person. See you soon, my friend. 

Juliette – You, my friend, are fearless. Your drive and determination to be a better person inspires me. You take risks that others would never even contemplate – never change; because you impact others in such a wonderful way. 

Rebecca – You put others above you without even giving it a second thought. The small things you do are the most important – your kindness is something that many people aspire to replicate. Don’t ever change. 

Emily – You are intelligent and one of the most interesting people to be around. I loved being in your company as you made everyone around you feel included and important. You will do amazing things. 

Mary – You have the ability to make others listen intently because everything you say is so intriguing. You contribute so much in an environment in which people learn so much from others. I have learnt a lot from you, thank you. 


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