Drumming It In – Allen McTernan Memorial Fund Report 1

The Allen McTernan Memorial Fund at Heriot-Watt University supports projects that broaden students’ experience. Grants are intended to support educational, scientific, cultural, and recreational activities of an extra-curricular nature but must not be directly related to University studies. Projects are especially welcome where the local community is involved or international co-operation is envisaged.

Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting some of the recent stories from recipients of the fund.

Recipient: Philip Scott

During the summer of 2013, I travelled to Latvia to volunteer as a drum tutor/camp counselor at a music camp run by Josiah Venture, a Christian organisation specialising in ‘Fusion’ music camps.

pscott1The average day at the camp involved 1 hour of tuition of a chosen instrument and 3 hours in total of choir practice with lots of fun outdoor games and relaxing in between.

We resided on the camp premises with the campers, so it was a 24/7 role! The week culminated in a public, free concert which was performed by the choir, backed by a band of 11-18 year-olds who previously had zero experience. This was at a ruin in a small town called Grobiña, and proved to be hugely successful.

Their desire to pick up a new instrument was like nothing I had ever seen at home in the UK.

My role was to teach drums. Having played drums myself for 12 years, I had assumed this would be easy due to the lack of experience of those I was teaching. As a result, I was very unprepared for the passion I was met with. I was struck by the respect these 80 kids had for the camp leaders, and their desire to pick up a new instrument was like nothing I had ever seen at home in the UK. That was just one of the many challenges I faced as I went out with a team of 10 others, some of whom I knew, and some I didn’t.

pscott2As somebody who has volunteered extensively in the Caribbean as well as the UK, I hadn’t anticipated such a culture shock going to Latvia. Language was the obvious primary barrier to communication, but there were also many other subtle differences. One area which kept coming up was the problem of alcoholism in the homes of probably 90% of campers. Interestingly, the campers from devout Christian families had by far the least (if any) big issues at home.

Since coming back I have very much seen my life and studies from a new perspective.

All in all the experience was far more rewarding than I had ever anticipated. Since coming back I have very much seen my life and studies from a new perspective. For those considering volunteer work or especially people who don’t secure a summer internship I’d say one thing. DO IT. In my experience there has been nothing more literally life changing than taking time out to help, teach or even simply interact with people from different, often difficult cultures.

Heriot-Watt’s Allen McTernan Memorial Fund is a tremendous resource for students, and I’m very grateful for the generous award of £300 towards my travel and living expenses in Latvia.

I look forward to heading back when I can.


Students have until the 15 May to apply to the fund – click here for more information.

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