We speak to organiser Paul Newman about the biggest Rams in Kenya journey yet…
Mojatu: Give us a brief recap of the history of Rams in Kenya.
Paul: In 2010, we were approached by a company who were called Kenyan Adventures at the time, and are now called African Adventures. The model they proposed to us was that we try to recruit volunteers from our fanbase, and a percentage of what each volunteer raises is invested back into the community. We went for the first time in 2012, and we took twelve of us and knew every single one of them bar one fan. We went to a primary school and it was absolutely magical, but we came home a little bit frustrated because we wanted to do more. On the flight home, it was never a conversation of ‘Shall we go back next year?’ – it was ‘When we go back next year’.
You’re now preparing for your tenth trip. How does it feel to be approaching such a big milestone?
We’re incredibly proud. There are children that we met in the first year who are now in their early twenties and still come and visit us. There’s a lad over there who’s very special to me called Joseph, who struggles with his English, but we bonded over football. He left school and was doing construction at college, and he came back to volunteer with us and help build some classrooms. Ideally, we’d just go over there and play for two weeks because there’d be nothing left for us to do, but that’s not the case.
What kind of role does football play?
They’re like any other kids, so when you chuck a ball in the middle, all of a sudden you’ve got common ground. You don’t need a lot to play football – sometimes not even a football, because they’ve made them out of string and plastic bags. In the past, we’ve left them some proper ones and I’ve asked them to make me some to bring back to the schools in England to help raise awareness. We even played against some Maasai warriors one year. It was brilliant to see them put down what they could from their traditional gear and have a match. It’s genuinely an international language that brings people together.
“If you went over and brought joy to kids for two weeks, then you’re contributing something they didn’t have before”Paul Newman, Community Manager and Trip Co-ordinator
What are your favourite parts about Kenya and its culture?
First and foremost, it’s a beautiful country. Driving from Nairobi to Nakuru takes about four hours, but you’ll see zebras and giraffes the way we see cows. It’s mind blowing. It’s a massive country, so there’s lots of green, and we always stop off at the Great Rift Valley, which is stunning. The second thing is that they’re just lovely, lovely people. They’re genuinely interested in why you’re there, and even if they’ve got no connections to the schools we’re visiting, they’re just grateful and so kind. I’ve got a shrine with all of the gifts we’ve been given over the years.
Let’s say someone is reading this interview and they’re thinking, ‘Okay, that sounds really good, but I don’t think I can do that’. What would you say to them?
First of all, can they cope emotionally? I still cry at everything – happy or sad – and I’ve been nine times. I’m the person who cries at the John Lewis advert. But there should be some emotional moments – and if that’s not the right environment for you, then it’s not the right trip for you. However, there’s always someone who’s been through it before, so there’s a support network there. The second question is, how can you contribute? It could be teaching, it could be DIY – we always try to help people find a little bit of potential they’ve got that they didn’t know about. But, ultimately, if you went over and brought joy to kids for two weeks, then you’re contributing something they didn’t have before.
I’m conscious that it’s a big commitment, so I’m always respectful of people who can’t quite make it. My stock phrase is, ‘we go every year, so you can come back next year’, which is part of the reason we get so many numbers. This year we’re taking 84, which is the biggest group we’ve ever taken. I wanted a hundred, but that’s just my ego…
Find out more at derbycountycommunitytrust.com
By Jamie Morris & Tristan Best