Corinna Snashall: planning a gap year

Estimated reading time:8 minutes, 11 seconds

Everyone on Islington Faces Blog has a story.  It’s only two weeks since the summer holidays ended but Year 13 student at Camden Girls’ School, Corinna Snashall, is not just busy studying for A levels, she’s also pulling together a hectic round of fundraising events including a November Bonfire party. Interview by Nicola Baird

Corinna Snashall: fundraising during A levels so she can volunteer as a teacher in rural Namibia before going to university.

Corinna Snashall: fundraising during A levels so she can volunteer as a teacher in rural Namibia before going to university in 2015.

“I’ll invite a few friends, and have a few fireworks. It’ll be the same as always – fireworks in the garden, then pumpkin soup, baked potatoes and cake, but people will give a donation,” says Corinna, 17. The reason Corinna’s got to charge her friends to come to her family’s back garden Firework Party is pretty exciting. If she can raise £5,600+ by summer 2014 she’ll be able to spend the time between sixth form and university volunteering as a teacher for young children in a remote part of Namibia. It should be a life-enhancing experience for her, and a huge benefit to the kids who get to learn English from an English first-language speaker.

It’s also a long way from the Gap Year of crazy holiday partying so wittily satorised in the YouTube clip Gap Yah, see here

Corinna’s the first to admit that the fundraising for a year of living expenses, support for the organising charity, Project Trust, and a return flight, is a challenge. “I’m planning the Bonfire party, a ceilidh* and a Christmas party,” she says.  “I raised £40 at my first cake sale and plan to do many more. I needed ideas, so my mum said, ‘why not get sponsored to walk backwards to school?’ And then I wondered if I could walk backwards to somewhere Namibian. I did some research and saw that the Embassy is in Marylebone.* So I’ll walk backwards to it from Islington on the day after 21 March, Namibian independence day (ie, Saturday 22 March 2014). Hopefully I’ll get a few friends to help me. They can say ‘move left’, or ‘someone’s there’, or ‘watch the dog poo’, and I can have collecting buckets for donations and hand out leaflets.”

Some of the students on the selection course with Corinna, here seen after climbing the highest point on Coll.

Some of the students on the selection course with Corinna, here seen after climbing the highest point on Coll.

Project Trust is a gap year charity  that sends young people for 12 (or eight) months to work on community projects worldwide.  Corinna went to a talk at her school, and then decided to apply. To do this she had to make her way to the remote island of Coll, western Scotland – taking a train from Euston to Glasgow, then Glasgow to Oban, and then a ferry.

“It was really fun in Coll,” says Corinna who is studying Music as one of her A levels (she’s also doing Biology and Chemistry) and plays the piano and trumpet well – she’s working on Grade 6 for both. “I had to teach a lesson to our group. I did it on basic note value for crochets, quavers and minims. I got people lying on the floor to make minims,” she says laughing.

“We also learnt about every aspect of life on Coll, dug a vegetable garden and climbed the island’s highest hill. We all had individual tasks to help members of the community. I did stock taking, but others were sheep herding!”

Corinna was selected and offered a volunteer teaching opportunity with primary school aged children, or younger, in Namibia.

“I’m lucky as I’ve been to Namibia before,” she says. “My dad’s a doctor and he was invited in 2009 to do some work with a Namibian doctor working on the uranium mines. The doctor said he should bring his family along. I was 13 and what I remember most is the smell you get as you step off the plane. It’s kind of earthy, sunburned, gamey smell. That time we didn’t really interact with the community but we saw a leopard sanctuary, walked up amazing red sand dunes and saw very old cave paintings. I even saw two giraffes mating – I held up my video camera to film one giraffe and suddenly another giraffe jumped on the other! We also got a CD of a Namibian children’s choir. It’s a capello (no instruments) but they use a lot of clapping and stamping. A lot is sung in Xhosa which I’d love to learn. There are three types of clicks  – it’s really impressive to someone who doesn’t speak with clicks.”

Although Corinna enjoyed her time as a tourist, she also knows that living in a rural village will be challenging. “I’m dreading the spiders, snakes, insects and the vaccinations,” she says with a clear shudder. “I’m a total wimp when it comes to injections. I don’t even have my ears pierced…”

Namibia in a nutshell
Namibia only became independent (from South Africa) in 1990. Although it’s a sparsely populated country of 2.1million people – and some of the biggest uranium and diamond mines in the world – Namibia looks unlikely to meet key Millennium Development Goals. Child and maternal deaths remain high. Every month many women die after giving birth.

Corinna: xx

Corinna: “It’s not just money I need to get to teach in Namibia. It’s donations of prizes for raffles or a free venue or publicity.”

Learning to plan
Moving into the final year of sixth form is a long way from child-maternal deaths, but it’s still a tough time for most students. Not only do 17 and 18 year olds have to cope with more rigorous learning, they may also have to find jobs and a university place. Corinna’s timetable is definitely tight. “The idea is to apply for bio-medical science on a deferred place. But I’m still thinking about studying medicine, ” she explains.


Where do teens go locally? Corinna’s time out in Islington
What I like about Islington
It’s easy to get everywhere – shopping in Angel is only a bus ride away and it doesn’t take long to get into central London on the tube. Transport is good in general – regular buses and tubes. Lots of parks around – Clissold, Highbury, Gillespie and Finsbury all within about 10mins. Most of my friends live around here, which means it’s easy to meet up at weekends, and for the people living further away it’s still not too difficult.

What I do in Islington
I like to go up to Angel with friends – can easily spend a whole afternoon looking around shops – H&M, Butlers, Paperchase, Book Warehouse (great for Dad’s birthday!), Cybercandy, Samba Swirl, Waterstone’s etc… Lots of places to eat as well – both locally to go out with family and cheapish places in Angel to go with friends (Nando’s Crew!). Handy to have a cinema close, also making good use of the Fieldway Crescent library (off Holloway Road) now, both for homework and looking up charitable trusts to hassle for grants.

What she is certain about is that the university she picks won’t be in London. “I was born in central London and then when I was tiny my mum and dad moved to Islington.” She’s been to schools in the borough – St John’s Primary School and Highbury Fields Secondary, both in  N5, and is an Islington fan.

It’s not about disliking London. It’s about wanting a change and experiencing life in a new place,” she says before quickly focusing again on her fundraising efforts.  “It’s not just money I need to get to teach in Namibia, it’s donations of prizes for raffles, or a free venue or publicity.  I need to get the message out to everyone because someone may be able to help me, especially organising a venue for a ceilidh. I only got my fundraising pack two days ago, but I’ve already made a flyer and done a cake sale!”

Here’s wishing Corinna very good luck with her fundraising efforts and a safe time volunteering in Namibia.

To make a donation go to or to suggest a fundraising idea, offer a venue or donate a raffle/auction gift please email Corinna at

Corinna has also started a blog, see here.

More info about Project Trust here


Namibian High Commission, Marylebone – see  Walking backwards the 4km (3miles) from Highbury, N5, where Corinna lives, to Marylebone, E4 sounds like a challenge, but the real distance between London and Windhoek, the capital of Namibia is vast – around 8,965km (5,571 miles) see here

Celidh – Scottish dancing party, ideal for mixed ages and usually a lot of fun. You don’t have to know the dancers as a Celidh caller can shout out the moves.

Over to you

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This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

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