Virgin Media Challenge 2015 – Participants

Kupenda Africa logoFrom the travel company Kupenda Africa:

Grace + JasonGrace Kagwiria was the first native African female tour leader to work in the Overland industry, Still going strong and in much demand she is a Director of Kupenda Africa Ltd (Kenya). Managing, organising and running trips she is loved by all and gains friends daily in and out of the business, join Kupenda Africa on Facebook to find out more. Grace has worked within the tourism trade now for over nine years and has travelled extensively throughout Africa and the UK. Cook, Driver, Tour Leader, Guide Without a doubt Grace is the company’s greatest asset.

Jason Smith was company director and manager in the UK within the transport and computer industry. Now he is a Director of Kupenda Africa Ltd (Kenya).  Working with Grace organising trips and providing training and support for people in the company. Engineer, Cook, Mechanic, Driver, First Aid assist.

Virgin Media logo

From Virgin Media:

Chris Starling

I am Chris Starling and I head up the apprentice scheme at Virgin Media having started my career 17 years ago as a trainee technician. I am a trained teacher and have a keen love of DIY which borders on an obsession. I have been married to Joanne for 18 years (she was my first love and childhood sweetheart!) and I have two daughters, Jessica and Katie, who are my inspiration.

Frank Panter

Frank Panter. I am an apprentice manager at Virgin Media and I look after 12 level 4 apprentices who study for 2 years to obtain a technical qualification while working in our Headend buildings delivering TV, on demand services and internet to millions of customers. I have worked in the Cable TV business for twenty years and worked prior to that as a telephone engineer. My sense of humour is the second worse in our team and I hope to improve on this situation in the near future. I still love to study and like to get involved in new challenges as I believe anything is possible with enough effort. I love travel and in particular mountains and snow and would like to visit every country in the world if I had chance. I have a pet owl called Olly who does a good job of keeping pigeons away from my house.

Tom Chapman

I’m Tom Chapman, an ex-pupil of Acklam Grange School and visited Africa in 2009, along with Peter Swan and a group of pupils.  Since leaving Acklam Grange, I have worked at Teesside University on the IT Service Desk for 2 years and then joined Virgin Media in 2011.  I aspire one day to become a manager at Virgin Media.  I also run my disco company and have organised two successful charity nights for the Meserani Project.  I have been involved with the Meserani Project since travelling to Africa in 2009.  I’m looking forward to going back to Africa and seeing a difference from 6 years ago!

David Galllagher

My name is David Gallagher and I am 21 years of age. I am from Glasgow in Scotland. I attended Chryston High School where I achieved my standard grades. I then had the option to stay on and continue with higher education or to accept an offer of an apprenticeship elsewhere. I chose the apprenticeship, which was to train as a CCTV and Security Engineer. Once I completed the 4 years I decided I would like to go down a different career path, this was when an opportunity arose for a HeadEnd Apprentice role within Virgin Media, which I will complete in July.  In the future I would like to continue pursuing a career within Virgin Media working my way up if possible.

Tom Chambers

Tom Chambers. I am 23 years old from Birmingham, and have worked for Virgin Media since I was 18. I got an apprenticeship after studying for AS levels at college. Originally I wanted to be an accountant but decided against that when I realised it was boring! So here I am…. My future ambition is to move to Australia permanently and have a family and successful career over there. I am a season ticket holder at Birmingham City and also travel to away matches, as well as being a qualified football referee, although I don’t do that much now….

Sam Cowie

My Name is Sam Cowie, I have been working for Virgin Media for 5 years, and am currently approaching the end of my third apprenticeship with the company. Before working for Virgin Media, I was studying my A Levels in college, but this wasn’t for me. My aim is to complete my apprenticeship and become a fully qualified engineer, and perhaps one day progress into management.

Reece Wills

My name is Reece Wills and I am 22 years old. I live in Mitcham and work as a headend apprentice in Guildford. I attended Cheam High School taking PE, History and Triple science as my GCSE subjects. I then moved on to a part time collage course studying both level 2 and 3 electrical installation whilst working as a watch specialist. Once I completed my collage courses I then moved into contracting as an everyday electrician, eventually working in Virgin Media’s headends. This is where the opportunity to become an apprentice arose and since then I have been working to qualify as an engineer. I hope to continue within Virgin Media in the future, progressing as much as possible.

Mohammed Abdul-Ali

Mohammed Abdul-Ali. With only GCSE as my highest qualifications I had nowhere to go. So I started to work in retail after working there for 2 years I realised I needed something more, so I looked to apprenticeship to further my learning. The Virgin Media apprenticeship has opened up many doors for myself, it has allowed me to advance from a level 2 apprenticeship to a level 4 apprenticeship. The apprenticeship has gained me access to a part of the business that many have worked years to get to, furthermore with this apprenticeship I will have a recognised qualification in both IT and Telecoms. In the future I am looking to get into management and exploring further parts of the business.

Liam Siddons

Liam Siddons. I’ve worked at Virgin Media for about 4 years started as a service engineer now I’m a headend engineer. I’ve seen loads of charity work done by Virgin Media and wanted to join in for a long time and this Africa trip is the perfect opportunity to help. Like most Yorkshire lads I like old land rovers and a few beers.

David Hunt

My name is David Hunt I am 23 years old and live in the UK in the West Midlands. I am an apprentice for Virgin Media who provide internet and television to people. I went to school as I grew up and studied lots of different subjects including maths, English, science, ICT & business, I then went to college to study ICT while working as a waiter after college. I still currently live at home with my mum, but am saving up enough money from working to buy my own house. In the next ten years I hope to be successful at my job and hope to be able to live a comfortable life, I want to enjoy the experiences it has to offer, I would also like to travel the world some more and see different places.

Daniel Goodenough

My name is Dan Goodenough, I’m 21 years of age, and I come from Fleet in Hampshire. I went to Farnborough sixth form for a year before deciding to leave in order to pursue an apprenticeship rather then A Levels. I attended Farnborough Technical college afterwards to obtain a Level 2 qualification in Electrical Installation. On completion, I discovered the vacant Headend Apprentice role in Virgin Media which I successfully applied for, in order to try something slightly different to a normal day to day job, yet still had some relevance to my electrical qualifications. I am currently a couple of months away from completing my apprenticeship with Virgin, and in the future I aspire to work my way up through the ranks and possibly into a Head of Department job. I am fundraising at present to assist with the Meserani project as I feel we are in a great position to make a difference.

Arnold Allotey

My name is Arnold Allotey I am 20 years of age and I live in Manchester England. I work at Virgin Media as Headend Engineer Apprentice, I acquired this position after studying electrical/electronic engineering at college for 2 years at level 3. In my spare time in enjoy weight training in the gym, I also like to run in my spare time but unfortunately I have a recent leg injury which prevents me from running the long distances that I enjoy doing. I have a huge passion for music whether it is listening to music or it is making it with my friends, music is something that means a lot to me, the genres I enjoy the most are Hip hop  R&B and grime. The reason I would like to travel to Africa to help out the children is because I am of African descent, and unlike the kids in Kenya  my father was able to go to school for free when he was growing up in Ghana and he was able study and  get a good education which enabled him to start a better life in the UK. This is the underline reason why I feel as if it is important for me to travel out there and help the children who are not as fortunate as my father.

Meserani Project logo

From The Meserani Project:

Peter Swan-Meserani

Peter Swan. Chairman and co-founder of The Meserani Project. I retired as Deputy Head Teacher at Acklam Grange School in 2012, and since then all my spare time is spent working voluntarily for The Meserani Project. This has been a wonderful opportunity for me to continue having an influence on the lives of young people, with the added incentive that the young people at Meserani need and deserve my help so such more.

Diane Swan-Kibera

Diane Swan. Secretary and co-founder of The Meserani Project. I retired as a physiotherapist in 1998, and now spend all my time travelling and working voluntarily for The Meserani Project. I was co-author of a wildlife safari guide, which was published in 2013 and for which Chris. Packham wrote the foreword – this was a massive undertaking, and one from which I gained so much satisfaction and pride. I have fallen in love with Kenya and Tanzania, and particularly with the people of Meserani, and it is a privilege to have such an input into their lives.