Bearsden teen Calum shows signs of success

Calum teaches self defence skills to other volunteers - he is shown here with Patrice.
Calum teaches self defence skills to other volunteers - he is shown here with Patrice.

Not many people can say they have learned sign language, let alone Filipino sign language, but one dedicated Bearsden teenager can.

Calum Johnston (19) from Bearsden, who is studying chemical engineering at Aberdeen University, was in Cebu City, a province of the Philippines, in the country’s Central Visayas region, for three months this summer.

He was working with volunteers from the Philippines in a vocational centre for young people with disabilities, particularly those with hearing loss.

The project was part of a government funded development programme, International Citizen Service (ICS) and it was run by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) to form links and educate the deaf community to help them find jobs.

Calum, a Bearsden Ski Club instructor, said: “I really enjoyed learning Filipino sign language even though it was a bit tricky.

“Once I knew how to sign ‘what is?’ and to finger spell my ability to sign really improved.

“It was great because it meant that I could communicate with people at the centre and I became good friends with some of the deaf people.

“It was really challenging but rewarding work.”

Calum thoroughly enjoyed the cultural experience of being there as well.

He stayed with a mother and her nine-year-old daughter and she treated him as though he was part of her family.

Living conditions were basic, they only had running water for four hours a day, and they filled up a big bucket of water which they would use for cooking. cleaning and to wash in.

It was also very hot as it was mid-summer with temperatures as high as 45 C and it took Calum a month to acclimatise.

He says the people were also very hospitable, and shouted ‘hey my friend’ and ‘amigo’ to them across the street.

Calum added: “Now I’m back home I feel inspired and motivated by the people I lived and worked with.

“I am sending e-mails to local politicians in Bearsden to encourage them to bring National Citizen Service (NCS) to Scotland for 15 to 17 year olds.

“NCS currently runs in England and Northern Ireland but not in Scotland.

“This is just the first step to me becoming more active in my community and hopefully making a positive change in the world.

“I’m keen to get involved in more volunteering projects such as those run by Unicef and hope toget others to join me in doing more development work.”

ICS allows young people aged 18-25 to contribute to long-term development projects in one of 28 developing countries.

The scheme offers young people the chance to develop personally and improve team working.