The EPAfrica Summer Team: Why I keep coming back for more …

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By Patrick Hearn
Over Christmas and New Year I was thinking about my favourite part of 2014. Undoubtedly, it was the time I spent re-discovering Kakamega, Kenya for the third time in as many years.The decision to return to East Africa again was not an easy one, and there were a number of reasons that made it problematic: the costs involved, the chance to do an internship, my mum telling me that I was trying to avoid her, the list goes on. So why did I decide to go? What do I get out of it that made all the hassle worthwhile?

Ultimately, the reason I wanted to return – the reason I still want to return this year and will want to keep returning in the future – is that my time spent as a Project Worker was the best thing I’d ever done. I learnt more during those 10 weeks then I did during my whole first year of uni, made life-long friends and saw some pretty spectacular places along the way. The opportunity to support others during their own life-changing experience, and to get a broader understanding of how the charity operates and the impact it has on the communities we work with, wasn’t something I was going to pass up lightly.The costs were definitely an initial problem, but fundraising targets are far less than for Project Workers, which made things considerably easier. I was fortunate enough to get some funding through my university, but there are also a huge number of other grants and options available (e.g. Petchey Foundation, Lord Mayors Trust, Local Lions & Rotary Clubs to name a few). I also saved what spending money I wanted by planning in advance and putting a small amount aside per week.

I was amazed by the level of responsibility placed upon the Summer Team and the opportunity this presented for me to learn and develop. From logistics to relationship building, delivering training to crisis management and negotiating and budgeting to time management and organisation, being part of the Summer Team was without a doubt more beneficial to my personal and professional development than any possible internship or summer job could have been, with the added bonus that I loved absolutely every minute of it. Looking back, even the chaotic, difficult, and downright dreadful days (which were few and far between!) helped me become more resilient and adaptable, and are surprisingly some of my favourite memories.

“I was amazed by the level of responsibility placed upon the Summer Team 
and the opportunity this presented for me to learn and develop”
There are always reasons not to do the things that you ultimately want to: financial costs, opportunity costs, that festival that your mates are all going to which you’d miss. I would encourage you to see beyond these very surmountable obstacles and consider what you have gained so far from your time with EPAfrica. The chance to take this a step further and support the project which made it all possible in the first place will be the best decision you make this year.If you are considering applying to the Summer Team then I genuinely encourage you to do so. Make sure to apply early so that you can start planning your time and fundraising efforts (some fundraising deadlines are in February). If you have any concerns or questions relating to any aspect of the Summer Team, be that applications, fundraising or the summer itself, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with myself (Phearn@teachfirst.org.uk) or Kate Bulteel (kate.bulteel@epafrica.org.uk).

Thanks for reading!

Patrick first went out to Kenya as a Project Worker in 2012, working with a school in Kakamega. In addition to volunteering on the London University Committee and in the Central Charity, he has also returned to East Africa several times, first as coordinator in 2013, and then as Project Manager in 2014. Having spent a year working at Teach First HQ, he then completed their Primary training programme, and is now a teacher in London.