Category : Project Africa October 2014

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Saying goodbye to Ol Maisor…a blog by Linzi Martin

Summing up my Project Africa experience is difficult to put into words-even for me aka Miss Chatter Box Martin! Despite feeling prepared as I departed from Glasgow to start my journey, I could never have envisaged the experience that lay ahead.
There were many elements of our trip which will stay with me forever such as the beautiful landscapes and wild animals, the achievement of helping build a medical centre despite my vertically challenged stature coupled with my lack of building expertise and my eventful 3-hour journey on Mambo the Camel…to name a few. But above all, the standout for me has been the people I have been fortunate enough to meet and spend time with.

Since my return home, many friends and family have asked me for the highlight of my trip. In response, on every occasion, a beaming smile appears on my face as I reminisce about different characters that have helped make my experience unforgettable.

I must start with our jeep driver John, with his kind smile and cheeky personality, he and his team were there every step of our journey making sure we were well looked after. Other characters included John and Amanda who joined us faithfully every night for dinner and a wee dram, Francesca our nurse who kept us all ticking over, Claudio aka Indiana Jones who was never without his camera- even on the plane! Jules, Clive and even our faithful mascot Paddy the dog!

Then there were the beautiful children of Ol Maisor. From start to finish, their amazing smiles and laughter could brighten any moment of the day, even after a gruelling cement mix. My biggest concern at the beginning of the trip was that I would feel great sympathy for the lives lead by the little ones, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Their simple appreciation of the basic things in life is the greatest message that I have taken from my visit to Ol Maisor. They are not driven by possessions or greed, they love, laugh and learn with such passion, a true inspiration to all! My fondest memory will always be the welcome greeting we received every day from the children shouting ‘Jambo’ with such enthusiasm, during our walk to the school.

I have no doubt that the work of William Hill has changed the lives of not only the children but the teachers, families and community alike. From seeing the children drinking the clean water to my own personal tour from Perris, one of the school teachers, as she proudly invited me into her home to meet her family and see her house which was built by a previous William Hill team.

Finally, there were my fantastic team mates…Beverley, Nicola, Andy, Matt, Ollie, Olly Oz, Andy, Cyril, Meir and Paul- a greater group I could not have asked for. I feel Andy Lee summed up our group perfectly in his blog…’formally colleagues, now friends’. Every member of our group brought something different for me, there was never a point that I felt alone or without support, in my opinion, it felt like being surrounded by family. I am very proud to have been part of the October 2014 Project Africa team…never to be forgotten.

Another chapter draws to a close – a blog by Andy Lee

As another Project Africa chapter draws to a close and, given that my former colleagues, now friends, have already blogged the things we have achieved and the emotional roller-coaster we have all experienced, I thought I’d end the blogs on a light note with a celebration of the individuals who have worked, played and laughed hard all trip.

Whilst naturally difficult to write something that is topical to all  15,000-plus William Hill employees around the world, hopefully you’ll find something to rib them on their return to their day jobs if you know them. If not, look them up some time if you get the chance – they’re a bunch worth getting to know. Naturally, most of what happened stays on tour.

“Style isn’t important, it’s  everything”, could have been Cyril Bekoe’s October 2014 quote.

Despite high 30`s temperatures and hard labour with the sun managing to fry eggs on the jeeps’ radiators, Cyril managed to maintain a high level of stylistic control with his black Levi 501s, designer shirt, cowboy hat and boots and meticulously coiffed hair. Even mixing cement, Cyril brought an element of “je ne sais quoi” to the back-breaking event.

“The bear in the wood”, Andy Lidbetter wasn’t just here for the concrete mixing.  Whenever he gets the tap on his shoulder, he moves like a gazelle and gets right into the thick of it – team-player and leader at the same time. Ask him about the tap on the shoulder when he gets back.

“Words don’t come easily to me” were lyrics to a song, by FR David that I remember from my youth. It’s not a song Ollie Humphries has obviously heard or relates to – he’s a man’s sharp with the tongue and a king of the one-liners. It’s surprising his brain has capacity for anything else in his life. It was surprising, therefore, when he told us his wife wears the trousers at home so maybe he’s just letting loose on tour. I genuinely wish his retail team all the best of luck in the future.

Linzi Martin, William Hill’s HOME Hero, has been our own Paisley Pocket Rocket. A pocket in stature, she stood taller than us all in terms of how permanently Happy, Organised, Motivated and Energetic she has been all trip. With people like Linzi, I can’t help but feel it’s clear we’re Better Together.

Paul Iredale, our personal development thought-leader and in-camp psychologist, provided us with some assessments of our character and mental strength during the trip. Apparently, we’re all passionate but also mad, which is an interesting combination. And I thought these appraisals were theoretical nonsense. It seems they’re spot on.

Despite having no hair-dryer or straighteners, Nicola Frampton admirably managed to put this Imperial-age oversight behind her and managed to maintain her in-built motto of making sure what she said was straight to the point even if her hair’s not.

Sometimes it was difficult to believe we were in the back of beyond with Matt Warner permanently on his blackberry as per usual. No-one else’s phones seemed to work but Matt provided us with the latest scores and world news to keep us distracted from the tiredness, the flies and the long drop. I am informed that after a dance at the kid’s assembly, he also provided more clarity as to why we’ve never seen him cutting some shapes at the local Gibraltar night-club..

For Action Man Meir Deutsch, nothing seemed to phase him and no challenge appeared too great. Our daily re-hydration tablets, referred to by some as “sea water in a sachet” are normally diluted with water to numb the gagging effect. Meir inexplicably decided to spice it up a bit with an undiluted down-in-one. He’s stepping up to the next level on our journey back with the  objective of “tackling a lion with a fork”! It’s ironic we built a medical facility this last week. Maybe we should admit him for some treatment.

Partly thanks to his journey all the way from Oz, Olly Scott has had some decent time off to allow for reflection during this trip. Whilst we all decided to off-load most of our personal stuff to locals and the local area during the trip, it’s fair to say Olly has off-loaded a little more than all of us. That said, I understand that one of the amazing local workers, David, did in fact refuse his Calvin Klein boxers.

For me, I’ll just say it’s been my pleasure to have spent such an out-of-our-normal-world week with such an amazing group of individuals with great values and principles – humble, committed and self-less team-players with great integrity to name but a few. But above all, they were amusing and extremely enjoyable company. That’s William Hill people to a tee.

 

Camel convoy – a blog by Nicola Frampton

Day 6 in the camp was a well earned day off for the workers.  The day started with a “long lie in” until 7am followed by a good breakfast ahead of a morning camel ride.

As we approached the herd of camels stood ahead of us, we were welcomed by the sort of greeting only an angry camel chewing regurgitated green snot can give….what can only be described as a gurgling gob that they do their best to aim at you.

I asked Amanda about the location of the seat belts, to which she replied that they weren’t needed because camels were as safe as sofas. I don’t know what sort of sofas that John and Amanda have in their home but they definitely don’t stock them in DFS.

We each took our turns to get on board. An interesting experience surpassed only by the ultra high frequency scream from Linzi as her’s rose to a stand. Good job there were no windows in the vicinity!

So off we set in convoy. One camel tied closely to the other.  The views over the Ol Maisor Valleys were lovely with the ever present profile of Mount Kenya dominating the skyline on the horizon.

We walked for about an hour when all of a sudden Ollie Humphries shouted “I’m loose, I’m loose”. Another one with deli belly I wondered?  (there’s been a few). Nope, Ollie’s camel had become unfastened from the chain and was ready for the off.  Ollie had been talking the talk about wanting a camel race but when it came down to it, he wasn’t keen to walk the walk and became our polie polie Ollie (polie is swahili for slowly slowly).

The highlight though was when we arrived at the Ol Maisor village, home to many of the Island School’s students. We were welcomed by the local village parents with some Kenyan style dancing. Wasn’t long before we were all roped in to dance with them. Step up Andy Lidbetter. Who’d have thought he could throw such good shapes. A candidate for the next series of Strictly Come Kenyan dancing without doubt.

We were invited to see a traditional village home. Made of cow dung mixed with soil and sticks, it was remarkably cool and solid. But that’s about all even the most experienced estate agent would be able to put on the property particulars. I was viewing it from my perspective clearly, but three tiny rooms, one for sitting, one for sleeping and one for cooking. No natural light and a cow hide for a mattress. Its a tough life out here which the local people embrace. They make their own entertainment, sing and dance spontaneously and always have a smile on their faces.

It was also our chance to see the children here in their home environment. Old car tyres, bicycle wheels and sticks used like Victorian children, and poly bag footballs were their toys. No i-anythings, yet overall they seemed happy. I guess what you’ve never had, you’ve never missed but it puts your own life into a very different perspective.

 

Sports day, more cement and Kenyan showers – a blog by Paul Iredale

A remarkable day of two halves that started with the team mixing what can only be described as enough cement to rebuild Nairobi. After four hours of hard graft I realised that it had become a competition of who could get their clothes the dirtiest. Stand out performances have to go to Lidbetter and Bekoe – you would have thought these Project Africa veterans would have known better.

During the mixing moral was maintained by the tunes banging out from Meir’s iPhone speaker that was dangling from his belt. It was a trend that appeared to catch on when the local fundi began to play music from their mobile phones. At times it was like a Friday night ‘in the toon.’

The afternoon was extraordinary, it was not only our opportunity to bring smiles to the children’s faces but it was also our chance to have fun – we were definitely up for that. Its safe to say not all the activities where Olympic sports but who cared. Kite flying, tennis, football, netball and not to forget the sack race which appeared not to have a start or finishing point. A stand out memory of this visit has to be watching the children actually sitting in the sack during the race and their friends rolling them across the field.

I am sitting here writing this blog as the team gather for dinner. This is our time to reflect on what we have achieved and to nurse our aching muscles. The rain has arrived again and we are sheltering in the main camp tent. The unusual thing tonight is that the gas light has just tried to set the tent on fire, quick work from Andy Lee and Clive saved the day, however some people would say that it was a waste of good Kenyan beer.

 

From Australia to Africa – a poem by Olly Scott

I left Australia ready to embark

On a challenge of epic scale

To build a medical centre our aim

And continue Hill’s legacy trail

 

First came Nairobi with traffic aplenty

And a quirky market to explore

Nicknacks, objedar and trinkets

Which Linzi negotiated for

 

The next day we made our way North

And saw many amazing scenes

Not least, Meir’s punctured wheel change

Which was quicker than a Formula One team

 

Our work started early on Tuesday

And massive graft the team gave

Layers of bricks were built at speed

Helped hugely by Ambrose and Dave

 

We’ve been here for four days now

And I’ve seen some niche soccer kits

It seems Grant Holt is an icon

And Rotherham are also a hit

 

Work’s continued throughout the rest of the week

But on Friday afternoon we relaxed

We hammered the students at football

And Matt saw their striker pole-axed

 

The centre is nearly complete

Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Gaudi

But quite an achievement I think

Given weather hotter than Saudi

 

The time will soon come for us to depart

And my body is in tatters

I think we can all agree we’ve helped the community

And ultimately that’s what matters

 

So back to our day jobs we will go

But a place in my heart will stay

For the children of Ol Maisor

Who have completely blown me away.