this time next year one Chirnside girl will be thousands of miles from home on the other side of the world in Swaziland, when she begins a year-long volunteering stint with the Project Trust.
Berwickshire High School student Josie Taylor still has 12 months before she jets off for Africa but after successfully completing an application and selection programme, she is already very excited about her trip.
“Someone who’d previously worked with the Project Trust came into school to do a presentation about their trip and it sounded like an amazing opportunity,” Josie told The Berwickshire News.
“I completed an application almost straight away, this involved telling the Trust a bit about yourself, your hobbies, volunteering experience etc.
“The Trust then got in contact with me and invited me along to a selection course. I had to go to the Isle of Coll for this with around 26 others and it was a real test of our skills; we have to dig things up; plant things, lots of manual tasks and group activities.
“From what I’ve been told the majority of people invited to the selection course end up taking part in a project- I think the course is the Trust’s final way of checking that you’re up to the challenge.
“I can’t wait to go now.”
But going to Swaziland with the Project Trust isn’t as easy as booking a package holiday to Majorca - before she takes her seat on the plane Josie has to raise £5,100.
Undeterred by her hefty target, Josie has already started fundraising and the money gathered so far stands at just over £1,500 with future fundraising events like a bag pack, ceilidh, band night and plant sale also in the pipeline.
Josie is confident that she will achieve her goal and as well as preparing financially she is also getting some volunteering experience under her belt on home turf before she begins her work with the Project Trust.
“The scheme I’ll be involved in will involve teaching a group of students at a school in Swaziland, so I’ve been getting some practice in at Duns Primary!
“The other option I weighed up was to do journalism in Namibia but in the end the school was the one I went for.
“It seems like a really fun and rewarding project to be involved in. You get to teach the pupils English, dance and music and as English is quite a well known language in Swaziland I’m hoping there won’t be too much of a language barrier.
“It should also help that I’m going to learn SiSwati while I’m over there as that’s the main language spoken in Swaziland.“
As a working woman, Josie will be entitled to some holidays while she’s in Africa and she said she was looking forward to exploring places she’d only read about or researched on the computer.
“I’ve been told that I’ll get somewhere between six to eight weeks on holiday which seems like quite a lot. I don’t actually know too much about Swaziland itself so I’ll probably spend some time getting to know the place a bit better.
“There was something about it that I was drawn to so I’m looking forward to having a proper look around.
“I’ve also thought about going to South Africa; I’d love to go there but it just depends on time really.
“The thing I’m most looking forward to is having some decent weather - I certainly won’t miss the rain we get in Berwickshire!”
Being away from home for a year is a big ask for someone of any age to commit to but Josie said that after some initial reservations her family had come round to the idea and were now sharing her excitement.
“When I first told my parents that I was applying they were quite nervous, which is understandable, but now, after learning more about Swaziland and what I’ll be doing there, they are really excited for me.
“My friends are all happy for me too. A few of them are going on gap years so we’ll all be away at the same time.
“I knew I wanted to do some sort of travelling when I finished school. I didn’t really consider going as far as Africa; I’d thought about Europe or maybe South America but after hearing about the Project Trust there was no question.
“I’d class myself as a fairly confident and outgoing person but I’m sure going to Swaziland I will learn lots of new skills and grow as a person.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m chomping at the bit to go! I’m hoping the next year will go quite quickly; I’ve got my sixth year studies to do at school so I’m sure I’ll be pretty busy!”