Since day one, the Derby County Community Trust’s Paul Newman has been involved with the “Rams In Kenya” initiative, which he has built from the ground up and transformed into one of the Trust’s flagship programs.
In this Q&A, we learn more about the Community Manager’s personal experiences on the seven trips he has organised so far and what it all means.
When did you run your first trip, and how important has it become to the Trust?
We ran our first trip in 2012, and if I am honest, it was a bit of a one-off, as we sent just 12 volunteers over there, not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. The company that took us was very new and not as sophisticated as it is now!
From the Trust’s point of view, the driver was a percentage of what each volunteer raises being retained for other projects. The finance generated was crucial for the Trust back then to sustain the disability program, and from there, it has grown and grown. Next year’s trip will be our ninth, and we’ve taken over 350 volunteers, the youngest being eight and the oldest in their 70s.
What do you think the volunteers get out of the experience?
It is very personal to the people that go out there; we take a lot of 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds these days, and I think it is a real leveller for them. Many youngsters in this country are perhaps sheltered from the worldwide challenges, but equally, it broadens horizons.
It makes them more employable and empathetic because you see the locals’ challenges.
What do you plan to do for the upcoming 2022 trip?
There is a theme every year, they, of course, need classrooms building because they have children waiting at the gate trying to get in, so there is nearly always a need to build classrooms. There is often a safety element, as many schools are in the middle of an urban area, so they need security, but we don’t know until closer to the time.
We help develop the school environment and teaching quality, so we often build new classrooms, kitchens, and other things. It is great to see the children outside the gates two weeks earlier being taught in the new facilities we built; it makes it all worthwhile.
What are some of your personal highlights?
The main two would be around my two kids- my eldest Max first came when he was in Year Seven.
Over the previous three or four years, with the help of the other organisations, we relocated and rebuilt one of the schools. The headteacher then allowed Max to reopen the school officially; that was special.
On the last trip we went on, my other son, looking more through the children’s eyes, came up with the idea of building a playground. During one of the meetings, he scribbled on the back of a piece of paper a drawing of what it could look like, and we built it! The reaction on my son’s face watching the other children use the playground he had the idea for, designed and helped build was special.
Finally, as Community Manager and the Trip Co-ordinator, what does this project genuinely mean to you?
The first year I went, a couple of little kids impacted me, and when I arrived for the second year, they remembered me. At that point, you realise that you have made an impact and what you set out to achieve has at least been put in motion by helping them in a small way.
Every trip has a magic moment for at least one person involved, making it an enriching experience.