WHILE many youngsters her age were spending their summer break lying on sun-loungers, Holly Buchan was planting trees and filling potholes in the Hebrides.

It was all part of a gruelling training process which led to the Baildon schoolgirl being selected for an aid work project in South Africa.

Holly, 17, will spend a year helping children and young people from poor communities, in orphanages and schools and through social care projects. She will travel to South Africa in August, 2018 representing educational charity Project Trust, which has organised volunteer placements for young people in Africa, Asia and South America for 50 years.

Open to school-leavers aged 17-19, the voluntary work covers teaching, social care and outward bound projects. Working with partners overseas, Project Trust puts volunteers’ skills to use in host communities, enhancing the work being done by local people.

Holly is one of around 300 young people chosen from around the UK. Following an application process lasting several months, she was invited to a selection course on the Island of Coll, off the west coast of Scotland, where Project Trust is based. “I spent a week there in July; it involved rigorous tasks, challenges and team-building activities,” says Holly. “I did some voluntary work for a local community centre, digging up and re-planting trees and filling in potholes, and I taught a 10-minute lesson and learned how to deal with potentially challenging situations.”

When Holly discovered she'd been selected, she was thrilled and eager to launch a fundraising plan, for the trip to go ahead.

It all started last year when a Project Trust representative visited Sir Titus Salt School in Baildon, where Holly is an A-level student. “I’d always been interested in voluntary work and when I heard about what Project Trust does I really wanted to get involved," she says. "I want to help change the lives of children less privileged than me. We take so much for granted in this country - we turn a tap on and there’s water. We have working toilets, we can have a shower whenever we like. Learning about people in communities where Project Trust works has made me more appreciative of what I have - I want to help make a difference for people in those communities.”

In South Africa, Holly will stay with a host family and also in a hostel with other young volunteers. “We’ll be living and working in communities we’re helping, in deprived rural and urban communities. The work involves teaching in primary and secondary schools, and social care projects with children at risk from gangs, or with those who don’t have older role models. A lot of young people out there are vulnerable and affected by social issues, such as HIV and AIDS and gang violence. I'll be working with those who have grown up in care ”

It’s a long way from Holly’s Baildon home, where she’s busy planning a fundraising programme. She needs to raise £6,200 her aid trip and has several events lined up, including fundraisers with Farsley Celtic Ladies football team, which she plays for. “I’d like to set up a kids' football team in South Africa. Sport is my passion and I think it’s really important to get young people into sport,” says Holly.

Other fundraising plans include a Three Peaks trek, with a team of supporters, bag-packing sessions, a quiz night at St Hugh's Church, Baildon, on November 10, bake sales and car boot sales. Holly is also making friendship bracelets in South African colours, which can be ordered for £2 each. “I would be grateful for any donation, regardless of size. It all helps,” she says. “And I would like to hear from anyone who can advise on fundraising.”

Project Trust provides volunteers with training and support. The aim is to empower young people to be confident, independent and resilient, make a positive difference overseas and share their learning and skills on their return. The focus is on collaboration, resilience, self-confidence, leadership and awareness. Volunteers are encouraged to be ‘Global Citizens’ in their own communities; contributing to global learning and understanding in the UK.

* To make a donation, find out more about Holly's fundraising, and read her blog, go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/HollyBuchan 

Email holly.buchan@hotmail.co.uk