Former Kirkcaldy head boy’s big Zanzibar challenge

Former KHS head boy Alasdair Pilmer works with one of the farmers in Zanzibar

Former KHS head boy Alasdair Pilmer works with one of the farmers in Zanzibar

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A former head boy of Kirkcaldy High School has spent three months helping rural farmers in Zanzibar.

Alasdair Pilmer (22), who was head boy at KHS in 2012 before going on to complete an Honours degree in Geography at Aberdeen University, travelled to the African country with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).

Alasdair Pilmer and some of the other volunteers with townsfolk in Zanzibar

Alasdair Pilmer and some of the other volunteers with townsfolk in Zanzibar

He worked on the CASH project (Commercial Agriculture for Smallholder farmers and Horticulture) which aims to tackle the root causes of rural poverty in remote island communities by providing training for farmers in business skills and farming techniques while working in the fields with the local farmers.

Alasdair contributed as part of a group of British and local Tanzanian volunteers who organised Community Action Day events for isolated communities, with representatives from the Tanzanian Ministry for Agriculture and youth employment advisors.

As part of his trip, for which he had to undergo a selection process, he raised £885 for VSO to help pay for the equipment he needed.

He lived and worked with local families and even managed to learn to speak some basic Swahili so he could communicate with them.

Alasdair, whose parents and younger brother live in Cluny, said: “I decided to volunteer with VSO because I wanted to put the volunteering skills I learned with the 14th Fife Scout group, and the practical skills gained from my degree, to good use and to make a positive impact in a developing country.

“During my time in Zanzibar I learned a wide range of things. Working and living cross-culturally has given me a new, fresher outlook and I was able to discover the similarities as well as the differences between Fife and an African/Islamic culture.

“I also learned plenty of useful employment skills such as leadership, confidence, teamwork and project management. From a personal point of view, I feel that the programme humbled me, and made me appreciate many of the things we take for granted in our everyday life in Scotland.

“When I was at Kirkcaldy High School, I never expected to spend time working in Zanzibar. Volunteering has allowed me to make a positive impact in communities facing rural poverty.

“I would like to thank the 14th Fife Scout Group for the skills and development they provided which helped my selection and for their help with my fundraising.

“During my placement I gained a new appreciation of a different culture and lifestyle which allowed me to develop both personally and for my future employability skills.

“I would strongly encourage any young person considering volunteering abroad to do so, it is a fantastic opportunity they will never forget.”