Volume 16 Number 6
People to People
01 December 2003
Pam McGibbon, then 46, was living in Scotland, where she and her husband ran a company organizing exhibitions.
When Pam McGibbon booked a holiday of a lifetime in Kenya in 1988, she had little idea that she was embarking on a lifetime of love and commitment.
McGibbon, then 46, was living in Scotland, where she and her husband ran a company organizing exhibitions. Her 17-year-old son was about to leave home to live in London, and they hoped that the holiday would be something they could all look back on.
While touring the country from one luxury hotel to the next, she noticed how much poverty seemed to be tucked away at the side of the road, out of sight of the tourists.
‘While the other members of my party were living it up, I made a point of going out to talk to as many Kenyans as I could, seeking out boatmen, drivers, waiters and anyone else I could find.’
By the end of her visit she had promised her two drivers and a waiter in the hotel that she would try to find people in Britain who would help them to educate their children. To her surprise, she found the sponsors within a few days, and went on to set up Direct Link, a charity which makes links between people in Kenya and Britain.
‘People were excited because they were able to write direct to their sponsored families, with no middle man,’ she says. ‘The families wrote back with all their news. They could also send gifts and visit ‘their’ families when they went on holiday. The idea was similar to larger charities but it was much more personal.’
Two years later McGibbon returned to Kenya, where she renewed old acquaintances, visited schools and spoke to rural people and politicians. Back in Britain, she filled containers with typewriters, bicycles, hospital equipment, school books and other necessities, holding fund-raising harambees to cover transport costs.
Now, 15 years later, Direct Link has grown into a substantial charity. It has provided education for hundreds of Kenyan children, right through from primary school to university and beyond; it has supported many schools and orphanages; it has built a library, a workshop and a laboratory; and, above all, it has brought people together.
One of Direct Link’s latest projects is Cows and Chickens for the Community, which is based in Kosodo, near Rongo, where the community has been decimated by Aids. Almost the only people left in Kosodo are grandmothers and orphaned children. The middle generation has been virtually wiped out.
The project raises funds to buy cows and chickens for a widows’ and grandmothers’ cooperative, so that they have milk and eggs for their orphaned grandchildren and can sell the surplus.
All Direct Link’s work is carried out by volunteers in Britain and Kenya, who carry all the administration costs. This means that all donations can be sent direct to their target, with no deductions, (apart for bank charges).
‘When I started with my three families, and thought how tiny my contribution was, a wonderful man came up to me and said, ‘One plus one plus one can make a big difference,’’ says McGibbon. ‘Nobody can change the whole world but if everyone does a tiny bit, then a big difference can be made overall’.
Pam McGibbon can be contacted on 07761 976102 or at firstname.lastname@example.org and would be happy to help other people set up their own small sponsorship-style charities.