In 2011, eight students received awards for trips ranging from working in a Tanzanian orphanage to studying Sámi music in Norway. Jonathan Weitzmann, a second year Biology student, used his bursary to work with “Project Umubano” in Rwanda:
“The question of international aid provision for developing countries is one of the most controversial debates in modern development literature which continues to generate intense political disagreement. In particular where a conflict of opinion has arisen is over methods used to distribute long-term developmental aid to areas with high concentrations of the world’s poorest people, such as in Africa and central Asia. It is specifically Africa that has and continues to be of great interest within my studies at St. Andrews. I was very proud to have received funding from the Walker Trust therefore, as this enabled me to not only enrich my understanding of African society in ways that are not possible if solely taught from inside a classroom, but also it gave me the opportunity to help contribute towards the long term development of African infrastructure.
With the diversity of skills offered by volunteers on the project, the opportunity to contribute was extensive and included a teaching, a community, a business, a health, a sport, and a senate programme. Having previously had experience teaching children as well my continued love for sport, I was asked to help with the coaching of football to Rwandan youngsters. Moreover, what was particularly fantastic about the sport project was that with the help of a Rwandan Football Association minibus we travelled to many schools and football clubs in all corners of this small African country, stretching from the border of the DRC to that of Tanzania. It was our aim to be the “Pied Pipers” of football as it was clear from the beginning of the project that football had the power of delivering Rwandans both enjoyment and a real sense of personal pride."
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"Although many children turned up to training sessions on dusty, potholed pitches without football boots and shin pads, the raw talent on show highlighted how the global power of football can spread to even the poorest of communities in Rwanda. It was extremely fulfilling therefore, and thanks to generous donations by many British football clubs, including Liverpool, Manchester City and Crawley Town, to have the opportunity to hand out over 2,000 items of football kit. The significance was highlighted when a 10 year old Rwandan boy realised he was able to keep the football kit and that it was not solely for the practise session. He burst into tears and claimed that “this was the happiest day of his life.” The time I spent in Rwanda also enabled me to gain a far greater understanding of the history, topography and culture of Rwandan society. I was very excited therefore albeit at 5a.m. on a Sunday morning to go on safari and experience the natural beauty of the Rwandan countryside. I now truly understand why Rwanda is called “the land of thousand hills.” Yet, although Rwanda geographically and economically is developing at a fast pace, it was clear that the majority of the population still feel the consequences from the 1994 genocide. This was evident with a day trip to the National Genocide Memorial Centre where a mass grave containing over 250,000 victims are buried, almost 15 times the population of St. Andrews. Having the opportunity to also listen to the testimonials of three women who have been left without any family after the genocide was perhaps emotionally the toughest moment of the trip. However as our accommodation was also a centre for genocide rehabilitation, I was given the opportunity to help teach English to victims of the genocide. Although it was extremely hard to truly comprehend the emotional scars that remain from 1994, it was extremely fulfilling to know that I was helping to contribute to a brighter future for many of these people.I was also very proud to have the opportunity to help with the final construction work for Girubuntu School, a former orphanage that will now provide a free education to disadvantaged children. Although physically exhausting, I was able to see the true demonstration of the Umubano’s legacy. Since returning from Africa, I have also gained work experience in Westminster parliament helping with research from the project itself. I was also extremely honoured very recently to attend a reception at 10 Downing Street with Prime Minister Cameron to help celebrate 5 successful years for Project Umubano.I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Walker Trust for providing me with a scholarship to make my trip to Rwanda possible. It has helped confirm my interest in the continent of Africa, and more importantly gave me firsthand experience of the people, the customs and culture of African society. It has certainly further enhanced my ambitions to one day have a career which addresses the main issues for African Politics, and maybe even create a similar programme with the aim of continued institutionalisation for Africa."