We asked Will to recall his trip to Kyrgyzstan last summer, where he volunteered with Jesuit Missions for four weeks teaching English at a summer camp.
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Why did you choose to volunteer with Jesuit Missions?
I was a pupil at Stonyhurst College and during my time there I regularly heard of Jesuit Missions and the work you do, which lead to me running the London Marathon in aid of Jesuit Missions in April 2015. As a result of this, when I was looking for some volunteer work last summer it seemed an obvious choice to see what volunteer work Jesuit Missions had available.
What would you say is your most memorable moment from the trip?
At the end of the first week we went up into the mountains with the Catholic Youth group and camped out for the night. The camp atmosphere and community feeling was brilliant. The next day we went walking and despite the obvious language barrier managed to communicate really well.
What do you miss most about where you were?
The simplicity of life. It really highlighted for me how overly complex we make things in the UK, and how happy the people are out there with a fraction of what we have. If everyone in the UK learned to live like people in Kyrgyzstan, no one would ever complain about anything.
What was the biggest challenge you faced on your trip?
The language barrier meant that sometimes I only had the two other volunteers (Will and Jakub) to speak to for a fluent conversation. In the final week we had a group come to learn English and a few members of that group spoke really good English, so it was really nice to have to some new people to speak to.
What has been your biggest challenge since returning?
Understanding what I want to do when I finish University.
What are you doing now?
I am in my final year at Loughborough University studying Maths and Sports Science.
What did you learn about yourself on the trip?
That whatever career I go into, it should be about other people and contributing to a society. The simplicity of life in Kyrgyzstan has made clear what is really important to me.
Has it changed your plans for the future or inspired you to do something different? Do you think the trip has changed the way you view the world?
Absolutely. When I came back I began planning a complete career change into studying medicine. However, I have since decided to go back on this decision. After three years of university I am ready to get out of the education system and work, and whilst I like the idea of what a medicine degree would mean in 5/6 years’ time, I’ve had enough of university, and I am looking for other ways of fulfilling my ambitions.
In summary, it’s highlighted the kind of work I would like, and my values, but I’m yet to pinpoint exactly where I go next.
What advice would you give to future volunteers embarking on a similar trip?
Soak up every minute of it. Think about the world you’ve left and the world you’re now in.
Practically, having someone with you who speaks Russian is extremely useful. I volunteered alongside Jakub and it honestly made such a huge difference. But none-the-less communicate the best that you can and try to understand how different their lives are. They dream of coming to live in the UK and in contrast I wish our lives here were more simplistic like theirs.
Read more volunteer stories here.
Are you interested in volunteering with Jesuit Missions? Would you like to be a part of a long-term development plan working in some of the most marginalised communities alongside local volunteers? We have a new exciting volunteer scheme being launched this summer. Register your interest today!
Hattie travelled to Kyrgyzstan in Summer 2016, read her account here.
Posted on 13th February 2018