Edinburgh teen grabs chance to help kids in South Africa
Daniel Whitney from Niddrie started at Castlebrae Community High School six years ago and admits that he was far from a star pupil.
But with encouragement and support he has transformed himself from an angry boy to a determined and ambitious young man, intent on helping others.
As well as spending his own time coaching basketball with local children he has been selected to teach sports to underprivileged children in South Africa through Project Trust Gap Year project.
“I turned up at school thinking it was a waste of time,” Daniel admitted. “I was angry and my anger was holding me back.
“Support from the school showed me how to consider the consequences of my actions, taught me self awareness and without it I wouldn’t be doing what I am now.”
The project, open to only 300 children from across the UK a year, involved a rigorous selection week on the Isle of Coll. Daniel paid for the trip himself from wages he earned during a month-long internship with JP Morgan.
“I was absolutely determined to complete the week. I suffered a severe asthma attack after four days and was taken to hospital in Paisley. Despite my parents coming to pick me up, I was adamant I would return to Coll to complete it – I wanted this opportunity so badly.”
Daniel’s success earned him a must-deserved space and he is now fundraising £7,000 as part of the project aims.
Research into the work he will be doing and the communities he will be living in has also given him a new perspective.
“Growing up in a deprived area of Scotland is not easy but in comparison to the lives of the people I will be working with I know to appreciate what I’ve got – I have a house, I get fed every day, that is more than a lot of people in South Africa.”
“I know that when I was younger my behaviour wasn’t great. My lack of anger management was holding me back but I am lucky to be doing this and I am excited to be going.”
Future improvement co-ordinator at Castlebrae James Donald said Daniel’s success is testament to his character and hard work.
He said: “I have worked with Daniel since he first started in S1 and he has been incredibly proactive over the last few years in school.
“He has seized the opportunities that are available to him. Many of the pupils spent their hard-earned wages on new clothes, or games, as teenagers should but Daniel saved the money and was acute enough to invest it in himself and his future.
“Daniel has faced significant challenges particularly at the initial stages of high school and he found it difficult, but with support he’s now a real ambassador for Castlebrae and we’re extraordinarily proud of him.”
Cllr Ian Perry said: “Congratulations to Daniel for getting through the competitive Project Trust Gap Year selection process. It’s a fantastic achievement and I’m sure he will find his time spent volunteering in South Africa both rewarding and eye-opening.”