Max Rollason – His Success Story
Max Rollason, 18, from Redditch in the UK applied to volunteer with Bhubesi Pride Foundation (BPF) in 2017. He was successfully selected to join the Pride for three months in Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Malawi.
Max’s first time away from his family, Max was so homesick he nearly left having only just arrived into Windhoek. Max talks to BPF’s Volunteer & Stakeholder Relationship Manager, Sally Bennett, and shares his story.
How did you hear about Bhubesi Pride Foundation?
“In a tweet by Jacques Burger in April 2016 about the Foundation saying, ‘just do this’. As a Saracens season ticket holder, I follow Jacques, so I was intrigued into finding out more about the charity.”
Why did you apply to become a volunteer coach (Pride member) on BPF’s 2017 expedition?
“I saw volunteering for the Pride as a fantastic opportunity to experience Africa whilst doing something that I love and make a difference in the communities we work in. I wanted to be part of a project that leaves physical lasting legacies, whilst also imparting the values and teamwork on the children that rugby thrives upon.”
Three months is a considerable length of time to volunteer, Max – why so long?
“I wanted to have a long enough period of time to find my feet, make a really worthwhile contribution to the project and test what I was made of. I also didn’t want that feeling when you go away for a week or two and it’s all over in a flash and you wish you’d been able to stay longer to experience much more. Three months seemed like an age when I first got out to Africa but, in actual fact, it flew.”
I understand you felt out of your comfort zone when you first joined the Pride. How did you overcome your feelings day by day and how did you triumph?
“I was really out of my depth. Africa is very different to what I know at home. We are so reliant on technology and familiar home comforts and all of a sudden I was on the other side of the world with people I didn’t know. I spoke to Rory, Richard and my fellow Pride coaches who were all so supportive, and I took each day as it came. I set myself goals in the early days to do one more week and get to the next place. A few weeks in I realised that I wasn’t doing it anymore and was actually really enjoying my time in Africa.”
How did you fund your trip? Describe any fundraising activities.
“I set up a donation page through BT My Donate and posted about my trip regularly on social media. My parents funded a certain amount as well. I also successfully received a Bill McLaren Foundation grant which took some of the pressure off raising all of my volunteer fee.”
Max discusses the value of his grant from The Bill McLaren Foundation in this video
What do you consider you have learnt as a result of your participation?
“Being a Pride member means living day to day with people from all over the world of different ages, backgrounds and experiences. Getting used to different accents, cultures, ideas and ways of being was sometimes challenging but you have to learn to get along and make light of things that may sometimes annoy you.
The opportunities that we had for downtime, sightseeing and activities made us even stronger as a group which helped us in our coaching and everyday living together as well. It was inspiring to see my fellow Pride members face their fears at the bungee jump and gorge swing (it was very funny too.)
I have always been a good team player in the sports sense but that has also now extended into my daily living skills in terms of participating in the rotas for cooking and washing up duties. I now also wash up at home!
I am now much more appreciative of the opportunities that I have and how little some other people have in comparison. It was a very humbling experience and one that changed my view on work and day-to-day life. People I met in the communities we worked with in Africa make the most of what they have and live a happy life.”
Can you provide three examples of your own perceived self-development?
“Not giving up when I struggled in the early days. I was homesick and there were times when I just wanted to go home. I know now that with self-belief and perseverance I can achieve great things.
I genuinely don’t think that anything other than the Pride would have had as much of an impact on my confidence. Being a member of the Pride gave me the opportunity to meet many new people from all walks of life and make many new lifelong friends from many parts of the world.
I really enjoyed my coaching. I think we all learnt a lot from each other’s styles and methods which we could then transfer into our sessions. Also, coaching the senior teams and local coaches was a really enjoyable and rewarding part of my experience with the Pride.
I have always been nervous talking to large groups of people which is something I had to overcome quickly as we would often have a large number of children to coach. When I was given the task of being Tournament Director I relished it, after initially being very nervous at the prospect. Being at the forefront of delivering the tournament for the children and our partner, G4S, was a big opportunity for helping the Pride and my own personal development.
It surprised me how much I enjoyed the responsibility of organising the day and how much I enjoyed delivering my speech to all the children and our friends from G4S.
Being a Tournament Director helped me face my fear of public speaking head on and I now have a lot more confidence when speaking to large groups.”
What was the best thing about your experience?
“Being able to participate in such a great experience and make so many new friends; we shared a totally unique experience and you form strong bonds as a result. Several of us have already met up since we have been back home and we talk all the time.”
Do you think your experience will help you in your day to day life?
“Yes. I now have more self-belief as to what I can achieve when I am out of my comfort zone. I feel this will help me in my professional life as I aim to join the forces. This will once again take me into very unfamiliar environments with lots of new people that I will need to build relationships with.
Volunteering with the Pride has given me confidence and improved my people skills like no other experience could have.”
Would you encourage others to join an expedition with Bhubesi Pride Foundation, and why?
It is a massive opportunity for personal growth and adventure. I saw so many fantastic sights in Africa, coached some great kids, saw beautiful animals in their natural environment, leapt 216 metres off the world’s highest bungee bridge, made some fantastic memories with special people and learnt a lot about myself through the whole experience. I loved every minute and didn’t want it to end.”