Travel Award

Following its launch in 2000, the Withington Onwards Travel Award has proved extremely popular.  Members of the current Upper and Lower Sixth, and alumnae aged 25 or under, are invited to submit written applications for an award of up to £500 towards gap year or summer holiday travels, incorporating work for the benefit of others.

The Travel Award has primarily been used by recipients to carry out voluntary work in developing countries, sometimes in line with their chosen subject of study at university. Previous winners have worked on numerous charitable projects in locations around the world, including Romania, Tanzania, Ghana, Peru, Fiji, Israel and Kenya, to name a few. They have been involved in a variety of work including medical, education, environmental and building projects.

We are very sorry but due to prevailing issues around Coronavirus (Covid-19) and travel, we are unable to accept applications for the Travel Bursary in 2020.

We will publish details of how to apply for 2021 in due course.

Travel Award Reports 2019

Ellena’s Caribbean Island Elective

Ellena Cotton (Class of 2013), spent six weeks on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for her medical elective in the summer of 2019. Saint Vincent is approximately a 35-minute flight from Barbados.

In the summer of 2019, Ellena Cotton (Class of 2013) spent six weeks on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for her medical elective. Saint Vincent is approximately a 35-minute flight from Barbados.

“After 5 years at medical school and placements in Fife and Manchester, I was excited to have the chance to travel somewhere completely different and to gain experience in a health care system outside of the NHS.

I worked at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in St. Vincent’s capital, Kingston, shadowing the teams in the obstetrics and gynaecology department and then the orthopaedic department. I chose Saint Vincent as I was interested to find out what the health care system was like on a developing island. Saint Vincent has the second lowest GDP in all the islands of the Caribbean. This is clearly reflected in the hospital. There is pressure on resources and the staff work incredibly hard to meet the demands of the growing population.

The health care differs greatly to the NHS; patients pay for tests and even and for some surgical procedures. There is also limited access to medications. In some cases, drugs were not available and the medical teams even struggled to get resources from surrounding islands. This made me reflect on just how important the NHS is, and how lucky we are to have it.

I attended daily consultant led ward rounds, clinics and theatre sessions. The most notable medical difference I observed between the UK and Saint Vincent was the high rates of conditions including hypertension, diabetes, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. The limited resources available mean that, for many patients, it can be difficult to manage these conditions appropriately.

Another notable difference is the lack of national screening programmes. Unlike the UK, there is not a free cervical screening programme and, unfortunately, I saw many patients with cervical cancer. This made me reflect on the importance of public health screening programmes.

Working with the orthopaedic team I ran weekly clinics under the supervision of the consultant. I really appreciated the opportunity to see patients, take histories and formulate management plans, all of which helped to cement my knowledge!

I also explored Saint Vincent and some of the beautiful surrounding Grenadines islands. As a keen geographer (at Withington I studied, and thoroughly enjoyed, A Level Geography), I made sure I climbed the active volcano, La Soufriere, the summit of which offered spectacular panoramic views of the island. I travelled to the set location for Pirates of the Caribbean, where one truly felt a sense of an idyllic and remote desert island, minus Captain Jack! The Grenadine islands were unspoilt with an amazing array of wildlife.

My landlady, a wonderfully exuberant Caribbean lady, introduced me to the local cuisine – delicious mangoes, bananas, ‘bakes’ and breadfruit. I really enjoyed eating freshly caught codfish and developed a passion for passion fruit juice!

I’m so grateful to the Withington Travel Award, which made my elective possible. Being able to live on Saint Vincent for six weeks, working in the hospital and fully immersing myself in the Caribbean culture was all part of an amazing and memorable experience.”

Helen Teaches in Nepal

Helen Su (Class of 2019) spent three weeks volunteering in Nepal after completing her A Levels.

“I started off staying in Kathmandu with a host family learning about local customs and Nepali culture. I usually woke up at 4.30am for a morning walk around the village with the mother of the family or to do morning yoga.

I taught children aged between six to eight, mainly in Social Science and English Language. The children were able to pick up vocabulary quite easily but struggled more to understand grammar and composing sentences. They were extremely energetic and eager to learn; I had an amazing time teaching them.

I experienced several Nepali festivals, Krishna Janmastami, during which the children came to school wearing their traditional clothes. The Teej festival is celebrated by women for the long life of their husband. Women wear the colour red for good luck. I attended some of the women-only celebrations hosted by the family. It was incredible experiencing these festivals first-hand.

I spent my third week in Pokhara, a more rural city. I stayed at a children’s home with eight children aged six to seventeen. The children woke us each morning in time for their two-hour study time at 6.45am. We helped them with schoolwork and walked them to and from school each day, after which they had another two hours of study time before dinner. Evenings were spent dancing and singing with the children, or they put on performances for us! The main challenges whilst there were the constant power cuts and water shortages – I experienced many rain-water bucket showers!

Visiting Nepal was one of the most amazing experiences. I am extremely grateful to the Withington Travel Award. I did find it challenging at times, with no experience in teaching and travelling alone for the first time, but I learnt so much and have developed so many skills and confidence in myself.”

Paediatrics in Tanzania

Eleanor Hughes (Class of 2015) spent time in Tanzania as part of her medical studies.

Over the summer of 2019 I had the opportunity to travel as part of my paediatrics rotation during my fifth year at Oxford Medical School. I spent four weeks in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, working in Muhimbili National Hospital’s paediatric department. Along with five other medical students, we provided additional clinical support and further developed our skills. We shadowed doctors in different departments including neonatal ICU, infectious diseases and neurological wards. The placement provided an unparalleled insight into the contrast between Tanzanian and British healthcare systems and illustrated how different cultures influence the way we approach and treat disease.

We also took some time to travel around Tanzania and Zanzibar, discovering some beautiful rural villages and cultural sites in the country. In my opinion, the opportunity to work abroad has been highly beneficial for my development as a doctor and given me an increased appreciation of global healthcare and tropical disease.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Withington for their support throughout my education and hope other students will be encouraged to take up opportunities like these to travel and experience what the world has to offer.

Donating to the Travel Award

We are very grateful to our former pupils for the funding of the Travel Award, which was established by the Senior Club in 2000. The funds however become more limited with every award we grant. If you would like to contribute to the Travel Award, please donate online or contact the Development Office for details on how to make a donation. £250 could fund a full award but your support is greatly appreciated regardless of amount. Every donation helps towards funding another award and an unforgettable experience for our winners.

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