Testimonials » Summer 2010
Alison Faire - Cardiff Univeristy
Before going to Kenya I had high expectations but nothing prepared me for such an incredibly heart-warming, memorable and genuinely fun experience! Most of our fundraising was individual so we had little opportunity to get to know each other before we left. I raised most of my money doing a half marathon, which was a great challenge and experience in itself, but training and collecting may have been easier with friend! I’d advise any newbe to get together with another group member and fundraise together, and definitely get involved with your committee’s events. Since returning, and meeting all of the inspiration young people in Kenya, we have tried to continue fundraising as much as possible as a group, mainly through collections around the union and in the city centre.
Every day in Kenya was memorable but I think I most enjoyed spending time at Kunya Primary School. We had the honour of spending three days at the school, teaching, playing and attempting to fix their road, which scarily involved numerous excitable boys with machetes! Unfortunately most of the village and school roads are not tarmaced and huge pot holes are inevitable and difficult to fix. The children were so attentive and willing to learn and we ended up teaching them much more than the social programme planned; from Geography and biology to Welsh and Italian! The smaller kids happily taught us all their local songs and games and made us sing the hokey cokey so so many times.
Our group, as with all the others in Kenya, had a fantastic dynamic and the fun we had together just added to an incredible trip. Some of the things we saw were really tough and time to wind down at the end of the day was really helpful. We had some great evenings out with plenty of dancing (waka waka being the ultimate favourite) and a few drinks. Anyone going to Kisumu should definitely ask to go to the Funky Budda lounge for the most amazing Sizzling Chocolate brownie…yum! Since returning we have had a fair number of reunions and kept the banter going. The KOP Ball in February was a great opportunity to catch up with everyone and here about KOP’s year as a whole. I will always remember my time in Kenya and stay involved with such a fantastic charity supporting so many well deserving people.
Head to toe in KOP stash, with my trusty bucket, telling tales of my Kenyan adventure and persuading students to part with their cash to sponsor the 2011 KOPing long way; I realised that only a year before the letters K-O-P were just that, meaningless letters.
12 months before I had been a little reluctant to commit to KOP. Having just spent 3 months in Africa on my gap year, 2 weeks sounded like barely enough time to find your way out of the airport. Then there was flight costs to find, time for fundraising and the seemingly giant task of surviving the first year of med school in the mix too!
Looking back now it’s hard to believe I ever considered not going. Fundraising with our small team involved all sorts from tea parties to tackling the 435km from Nairobi to Kisumu, still no mean feet even in the gym where we bought enough food to feed a small army, watched the world cup and smashed our 12 hour target (before collapsing in a heap and taking a very well earned rest!).
Kenya itself was an unforgettable experience with so many highlights from visiting the hospitals and seeing Kenyan healthcare first hand to delivering 100’s of cups to school children in Kunya, a gift from one of our local schools who are now raising more money and keeping in touch via letters. As well as the projects it was great to meet lots of new people involved with KOP at other universities and to be able to travel, we even saw lions on safari in Nakuru National Park.
Back to England and back to reality, with precious little holiday time on the horizon and plenty of exams I’m glad I took the opportunity to see Kenya while I could. The KOP experience has given me an appreciation of healthcare in a developing country and a unique insight into daily life for some if its most vulnerable children. Having seen exactly where all our money goes I’m even more determined to help KOP grow. At Warwick fundraising is in full swing and flights are booked for a new group eagerly awaiting their summer adventure, i’m just hoping they can fit me in a suitcase.
Sumeet Khosla - Kings College London I woke up yesterday morning in daze....immediately noticing the lack of mosquito net above me and the peaceful home environment that my mum loves to enforce at my house I wondered to myself if the last two weeks of my life were a dream, the kind of dream that you never want to wake up to and when you do wake you want to fall back asleep to the same dream. The last two weeks were not a dream but a dream come true.
Sumeet Khosla - Kings College London
I woke up yesterday morning in daze....immediately noticing the lack of mosquito net above me and the peaceful home environment that my mum loves to enforce at my house I wondered to myself if the last two weeks of my life were a dream, the kind of dream that you never want to wake up to and when you do wake you want to fall back asleep to the same dream. The last two weeks were not a dream but a dream come true.I have to admit the week before I left for Kenya I was a little uneasy, I had travelled a little before but mainly with family in luxury hotels or short breaks with mates who I had known for years before. This was completely different, firstly I had never done overseas charity work before let alone doing it in Africa and secondly I only knew one person very well before leaving and a handful of people I had spoken to. I was leaving my comfortable summer life behind me, a life that had consisted of making a nuisance around London's clubs and bars with my mates or having family time in a beautiful suburban home in south Croydon. At Heathrow something clicked inside, maybe it was the instant conversations I could hold with the group or maybe it was just pure adrenaline as I finally realised that a year of work had led me to this point.
The plane journey there started badly as Aisha somehow nearly missed the flight, but apart from that after 8 hours of mainly sleeping or talking to Raashi, who was next to me, we arrived in good time to Nairobi. The journey from Nairobi to Kisumu was interesting, it was meant the first time that we had to come out of our shell in terms of talking to people around us due to the snug nature of our Matatu transport, as it happens we slept most of the time again even over the bumpy Kenyan roads! I did manage to talk to Irfan and Fazila who we met in Nairobi along the way for the first time and knew that Irfan would make me laugh a lot.
The stopover in Nakuru along the way proved to be the highlight of the journey as we divulged in some local cuisine and had our first experience of the local toilets. Roughly 7 hours later from leaving Nairobi we arrived in Kisumu and our hotel the Duke of Breeze. Marti was on hand to settle us in quickly, I was to share a room with Shobit a guy I had talked to before about KOP during classes the previous year but little did I know that we were to form an amazing friendship over the 2 weeks. The first meeting with Shona and Marti consisted of a lot of information, changes to this and that from the programme and the phrase TIA mentioned several times, I have to admit Shona's accent was the highlight of the talk. After a satisfying dinner and the first of many Tusker lagers on the scenic rooftop bar, we decided to crash early ready for the start of something special the next day.
The first 3 days of project for me were the Ombeyi health centre, teaching and the feeding centres my group was me, Sita and Bijal. The health centre was a tiny hospital and with few staff trying to cope with the load of patients they had. Speaking to the staff I realised the scale of the HIV/AIDS problem in this region and I will never forget one consultation with a small child neglected by her parents who had HIV. Teaching was brilliant, stressful yes but brilliant none the less! Preparations before went out the window as we made the kids make posters, do a quiz and generally engage for the first time in their life. The smiles on their faces as we took photos or gave our prizes will never leave me, these children were being taught in a classroom which had rocks as a floor and an ancient blackboard but they were still grateful for the chance of education.
The feeding centre was a chance for me to show my football skills or lack of them to the kids as well as handing out toys, balloons and playing darts, this was my highlight of the trip.....so far. The lunches at the feeding centre those three days were my first encounter with Ugali and with a dab of salt (or a bath of salt) I just about managed to acquire the taste for it! The children sang us a song to say goodbye to our group for our 3 days of work in the area, which nearly brought a tear to my eye (the eventual was soon to happen later on.) In terms of relaxing, Sita's birthday on the Monday was nice, especially as I had known Sita for just under 4 years now, I hope she enjoyed her cake and present! Tuesday the rock climbing at Kit Mi Kye and the sunset followed by shisha and desert at the laughing Buddha will always live me, especially Mitz's screams in the bat cave that day and Shona's shisha smoking! Wednesdays quiz proved great fun, well more than that, as my team won! although we could feel the resentment from the runners up (cough issy and jess cough.) Shona your questions were controversial but fair! The first real funny moment of the trip was hearing that Helen thought there was a live giraffe living in the hotel, I couldn't let that rest for the first week.
The medics’ matatu as it was now known had our three days building at Alendu scattered somewhat due to the changes in the programme. But Thursday's first day at the site started nicely with a load of introductions to the current classes before it was all hands to the deck with cement mixing, water pumping and splashing to help build the new staff headquarters. I have to admit this was hard work for a lad whose only manual work consists of making flat pack furniture or washing my car at home. However talking to the builders there made me realise how hard it really is for them, yet their determination and skill with such basic equipment was quite inspirational to the group. Thursday night was karaoke, although it was still the first week, this was my favourite night.....our group really clicked, the drinks, the songs and eventually the dancing was lived up by all. I don't know why it happened but at some point that night I realised how special my fellow Kings KOP group were as well as Marti and Shona, I also realised that from this point I would cherish every little moment for the rest of this trip.
The next few days were all rest days, although Friday's trip to Kakamega forest might hardly be classified as rest! The view from the summit of our final climb ensured the journey was worth it me and Sita deciding to set the pace of the group, the mid climb bat cave was probably the funny moment, with screams a plenty, and Jess's infamous head torch lighting a path for us. For some reason I decided to jog the entire way down with Raashi as my companion, maybe it was the safari ants that made us do it, as Jess would have to testify they do like climbing up people’s pants! Saturday's day began with the very early journey to Lake Nakuru and we split into 3 different safari busses medics and non medics given a chance to mix a bit.
Our bus was given the name the 'cool bus,' cool is a word that I probably hadn't used since my early teenage years, so when I first heard it I wanted to protest the name but for some reason it stuck with me. I guess the real purpose of the day was to give us a chance to photo, admire and observe the wildlife in their natural habitat (except the leopard at the start,) and yes it was amazing to see the elegance of these animals especially the rhino which was my favourite. However my real experience of the day was from the group in my bus and our bonding throughout the whole day, by the end of the day I felt like I had known everyone (Fred, Jess and Jess, Claire, Tania and of course Issy) on that bus for a year and it had only been a week. We exchanged our life stories and sang songs the whole way back, with what has to be one of the most terrifying storms around us. Being the oldest on the bus I tried to give my advice on numerous things and I hope that it was of some use. I'm kind of someone who hides my personal and caring side with a hard, tough coat normally (maybe it’s all the Chelsea games I’ve been to,) but I think maybe my 'cool bus group' saw past the shell on that day. That night we celebrated Helen's birthday with what Fred described as some moist cake, indeed it was mate. Sunday's rest day began with trips to either the church, mosque or temple. I have to admit now I don't go to temple much, but being a Hindu I decided it was best for me to go, it was a good choice, I felt peace inside of me that the last week of my life had great purpose and the week to come would bring more.
That afternoon at the Oasis of Hope School however my emotions nearly got the better of me I just held it together, I believe Marti's speech helped nearly push it though! On a personal note to you Marti, that speech was amazing and showed me that you are quite a wonderful person doing great things on this planet. I also got taught a great lesson on the football pitch that day by the school lads, who quite frankly gave me the run around on the pitch (luckily my team held out for a 1-0 win, so in your face Shobit, Fredirico and Irfan who played for the other team.)
The second week began with 2 days of Alendu building, I believed a more get stuck in approach helped me to actually do some good those days, again the builders stories especially Emanuelle were just amazing. I have to give credit to the girls of our group; Bijal, Sita, Jess (ginger,) Tania and Claire who showed the boys how working should be done! The Alendu experience was completed by a footy game of England v Kenya and for the second time in months England were to leave African soil with their tales between their legs.
Personally I blame the team talk at half time of letting the opposition win. Ok I might have changed over this trip but I still can't stand losing! The Monday night trip to Sunspot the club proved to be more low key than expected but drinks and dancing were still in order and a great night was still had (Mitz probably a little guilty of a little too much bevy!) The Tuesday night we went to the cinema with some of the VIMA kids to watch the Karate kid, I thought the film was funny but the original was much better but the real experience was the delight of the kids faces at being there, their laughs and excitement was enough to make it one of my best trips to the movies ever.
Wednesday was HOVIC day as the big medic group was cut into our bite size chunks again, I had heard that this was the best part of the whole KOP experience and it didn't let me down at all. These street kids had gone through so much pain and hardship and yet somehow had the strength and character to engage in conversation with us as well as still having smiles across their faces. I became attached to a boy called Bernard, a kid that I will never forget, I managed to slowly gain his trust in order for him to share his story with me. At the night shelter Bernard introduced me to Peter who had a similar tale of despair and hurt. That evening as I watched the gorgeous sunset over Kiboko bay I valued everything my parents had done for me in the past, realising that are truly so many children who don't get the right love and attention that they deserve in life. Luckily HOVIC provides a decent start to reintroduce these remarkable young lads the chance to engage in society again.
The next day started with fun bartering at the market, I'm pretty sure I pulled of the best deals, Bijal went a bit nuts to be fair almost losing the plot with spending. As I waited for the girls I managed to chat to Ambila the driver who I had become close to, he told me of his two boys and how he wanted no more in order to provide the best for them in life, he is a remarkable man who would do anything for his family and is certainly a man who I will always hold in the upmost respect.....his driving ability was also pretty special! The afternoon I visited two families through VIMA, Tyson the first boy we visited was the most emotional for me. I saw in him, a brave, intelligent lad, who unfortunately had been given the wrong start in life....hopefully through VIMA I believe he one day could finish school and achieve his dreams.
That evening I managed to engage in 'guys chat' with Fred and Shobit at the Laughing Buddha over a Tusker, I felt like I had truly made two amazing new friends for the future, although we were finally summoned to the main group as I had to help sort out the shisha pipes for the girls! My final project day was the hospital visits, I decided to dress as I would for clinics at home much to the bewilderment of my fellow koppers. The major experience of the larger general hospital was the premature babies, one who was awaiting life saving surgery. The experience of the smaller district hospital was the psyche ward which although frightening and upsetting proved to be a worthwhile experience, after that I don't think psyche patients at clinics will be a problem now.
Friday finished with a bang, a party at the commando's house full of food and dancing and the best part was the HOVIC boys showing up, seeing Bernard again was amazing although saying goodbye for the second time in a week proved to be too much for me and my emotions finally got away from me with a few tears, it didn't help that Bernard jumped out of the bus to say bye again. Thankfully Marti, Raashi and Mitz were there to pick me up, Marti describing me as a big softie while giving me a hug! I couldn't believe it was over, but yet it was.....as we elected our new committee (congrats to all of you) I felt at peace with myself again as I had done in the temple the previous Sunday. Saying goodbye to Marti and Shona was hard, I honestly meant what I said to both, they are truly remarkable people and are a credit to Britain and its people, I really feel that they are unique and it was an honour being with them for two weeks. It was also hard saying bye to Jen as well who I had got to know a lot over the few weeks as well and Adam who I feel is really making a difference to the children with his keen enthusiasm for physics teaching. As the job of 2010 reunions officer has been given to me (an absolutely unofficial position) I will let you all know of any events for Kings 2010 group over the next year.
The last night together for Kings in Nairobi proved to be one of fun, laughter and emotions all mixed in together. Saying goodbye to the 6 lucky travellers that morning was hard for all and saying bye at Heathrow was even harder, Ruks you letter will be always treasured by me. I will miss being around such smart, generous and warm people on a day to day basis but am sure that the bonds of friendship (no lord of the ring pun intended) that we had made over last weeks will ever fade away. I would like to say a massive thanks to every single one of the Kings group this year especially our brilliant leader Issy (my Chelsea girl) for making this the most unforgettable experience of my life. Trying to explain this to my mates will be hard so I will insist on all of us getting together regularly both at social events and helping our next year’s committee so that the memories of KOP 2010 will never fade away.
"What we achieve in life, echoes into eternity."
Sophie - Barts Univeristy
'THIS IS AFRICA!!! - THE KOP EXPERIENCE'
I began my journey with KOP on the 3rd July 2010, and what an incredible two weeks it was. Previous to this the year had mainly focused on our fundraising efforts, which although vitally important to the work KOP does, it is easy to feel a fairly detached part of the process until you can actually see where the money is going, and meet the people we are truly making a difference to.
So, it was with some trepidation and excitement that we arrived in Kisumu, positively throwing our bags down in the Duke of Breeze reception after what had felt like a lifetime in a matatu from Nairobi. We were greeted by the lovely Marti and Shona – both recovering from the exploits of the last group and confronted with the excitable gaggle of a combined Southampton and Barts, they needless to say, needed the night off. So we happily entertained ourselves on the roof with multiple games of Mafia (if you have never played – learn!).
The slow, relaxed pace of the first two days soon became a thing of the past as we got into the swing of the KOP programme. For all of us each day was filled meeting incredible people, having incredible experiences, but most importantly feeling so privileged to be even a small part of the work that KOP is doing. It becomes obvious from a fairly early stage that the hard work, effort and love that people like Marti and Shona (and the rest of the KOP team) put in, does not go to waste. The orphans and vulnerable children that form part of the KOP mission are our constant companions on the projects – whether at the schools, the HOVIC day shelter, or visiting their homes with VIMA. The most startling and touching thing about the whole process is how happy they seem. It does not take much imagination to picture their lives, surrounded by abject poverty, not knowing where their next meal might come from – but if KOP is able to make even the smallest difference to them, it does not go unnoticed.
It is in the quiet moments of reflection, (don’t worry, you don’t have to fill in some form with a tirade of questions to prove you’ve reflected – as is the mainstay of medical school), more usually on the way back from a project in the matatu, or over dinner whilst swapping stories of the day, that you realise how important the work we are involved in is to these people. It is this feeling – gratitude, pride, empathy and motivation all rolled into one – that stays with you long after you have said your goodbyes and taken one last look out the matatu window at Kisumu in all its glory.
I am utterly grateful to KOP for showing me personally, but no doubt anyone who goes out to Kisumu, how a small number of people with very big hearts, really can make a difference. There is an infectious sense that next year will be even bigger and better, and the year after that and the year after that. KOP will not stop, so I encourage anyone reading this to take a tiny slice of the hope and energy that surrounds it, to go on and raise funds, publicise what we do, and help to continue the fantastic work that has been started.