Guernsey’s Women in Professions bursary provides valuable life skills

September 8th, 2012 by Women In Professions

Jemma Burton sits with the pupils outside the school in Sri Lanka with the newly painted Bridge2SriLanka logo. Jemma Burton spent a month at the school after winning a bursary from Women in Professions (click image to expand – image courtesy of Women in Professions)

Jemma Burton spent her summer holiday teaching children in Sri Lanka after winning a bursary from Women in Professions.

Jemma Burton won a £1,000 bursary from the organisation, which provides networking and support for professional women in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The bursary aims to broaden the skills of local woman between the ages of 18 and 25 in order to benefit their future employers.

The former Ladies College pupil spent a month in a small village called Wanchawala, near Galle, where she was working at a school set up by Guernsey-based charity Bridge2SriLanka.

“I had helped build the school when I volunteered for the charity two years ago and so it was fantastic to be able to see the school which has been now been open for 18 months,” Jemma said.

Jemma Burton helps children learn English (click image to expand – image courtesy of Women in Professions)

“I spent my time working with children aged between three and five and the best part of the trip was getting to know them. We had no common language as I knew no Sinhalese and very few of them had started learning English. It took a few days but after that we learned how to communicate without words and had an amazing time together.”

Miss Burton had taken the film The Lion King with her to Sri Lanka and watched it with the children.

“That afternoon I drew Simba and Nala on the walls so the next day when the children arrived at school, there was congestion in the hallway as they all stopped to look and Chaini, the headteacher, had lots of children running to tell her that they were ‘the lions from yesterday’. It’s nice to know that I have left something behind that the children will enjoy.”

She said the hardest part was having to leave.

“It sounds like a cliché but the hardest part was definitely leaving. After getting to know everyone so well over the month, when my driver turned up to take me to the airport, I was a bit of a mess. The teachers then gave me a leaving present, which tipped me over the edge and it was horrible having to say good-bye.”

The aim of the bursary was to broaden a young woman’s life skills which would benefit her in her future career. Miss Burton was confident her recent experience would do that.

“I think volunteer work like this helps tremendously with career prospects. I feel I have a better understanding of another country and culture. This has opened me up to accepting other people more easily without letting barriers such as language get in my way. I also think that I will be able to work more easily with other people when I am put into difficult situations,” she said.

Jemma Burton painting Sinhalese letters with one of the pupils on one of the school walls (click image to expand – image courtesy of Women in Professions)

“The biggest thing I learned was that even through different cultures, religions, and languages, people everywhere can still make a difference. The work that has been done to help the community in Sri Lanka has made such a difference to people’s lives. Seeing how grateful they are to be allowed the chance to rebuild their lives or be given an education is mind blowing.”

Miss Burton, who is about to begin a year-long placement with a design company in Brighton before returning to university to complete her degree, recommended volunteering to other young women.

“Young women should definitely apply for next year’s Women in Professions’ bursary and if a similar opportunity arose then I would grab it. Just the chance to go out and meet people across the world who don’t have the same chances as us is an amazing experience.’

Women in Professions’ president Elaine Gray said the aim of the bursary was to give a young woman experiences that she would not have through education or work.

“Guernsey is privileged to have some outstanding women who are leading businesses, holding senior positions within the States and the Civil Service and making an impact in whichever industry they work. Often those women have achieved what they have through a combination of hard work, education and life skills,” she said.

“The bursary provides a future female bright star with the opportunity to develop and broaden those all important life skills which we know will prove invaluable at all stages of their career. We are delighted that Jemma feels she has benefited from her experience and wish her well with her future career.”


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