Catriona Duffy, a Durham University student from Stokesley, Middlesborough, says her one-year placement volunteering in Belize City has taught her invaluable life lessons and made her realise how much we can all make a difference in the world.

The 19-year-old, who is a member of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Stokesley, has been on a gap year with the international Christian charity Us (also known as United Society), which runs a placement programme called Journey with Us.

Based at All Saints Church in Belize City, Catriona was teaching music to primary school infants, as well as running two school choirs and helping with youth work.

Catriona, who raised funds for the trip herself, says, "From the start, everyone I met was kind and supportive. In fact, I did not appreciate what strong relationships I would have formed by the time I left.

"Everyone I met, especially my host family, showed me so much grace and kindness. They truly showed me how to live out a Christian faith day by day.

"When I was in Belize I didn't think my presence was making a difference. However, when it came time for me to leave, many people came to me with gifts and beautiful hand-written cards."

Catriona added, "The experience has made me a lot more confident in myself and my faith, I have become more confident talking about my faith and living it out daily. I will now be more generous with my time and money, and more patient with others. Journey with Us is an opportunity not to pass up on!"

Catriona has just started university, studying Theology and Politics at University College, Durham, in October.

The Journey with Us programme offers placements for self-funding volunteers, aged 18 to 80 – including placements for clergy and trainee priests.

The Journey with Us programme is an opportunity to experience the life and work of the church in another culture. Find out more at