Virgin Media Challenge 2017 – 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

Chris Starling – Head of Network assurance and technical build. Having had the privilege to be on the Virgin Media challenge in 2015 with our apprentices I was keen to get to get a second visit planned. I witnessed first hand the great work of the Meserani Project and also the positive impact our trip had on those who attended. I’ve changed roles since my last trip so I’m looking forward to returning to Tanzania and getting involved with supporting the work of the Meserani Project with a team that brings together colleagues from right across the country, this is extreme team building at its best!!

Daniel Bell

Dan Bell – Build Quality Technician in Network Expansion. I am excited by this opportunity as it would be a new life experience and I am fully committed to make it happen. I love to travel, although I haven’t nearly as much as I’d like to, and with a trip like this I could appreciate a different culture firsthand whilst making a huge difference to people’s lives. I know that this experience would allow me to not just inspire but be inspired by the lives impacted. I will be doing something that I will look back on with pride as well as setting the example to my two girls that selfless acts do make a difference.

David Payne

David Payne – Network Operation Manager for Devon. I’ve always seen and heard about trips such as this and thought how great it would be to get involved, so this is a dream come true. I enjoy practical work and do a lot of DIY, so hopefully I have some skills which can be put to good use. I’m also getting some medical supplies together to donate to the clinic and have some good first aid skills and experience.  This is a fantastic opportunity to work with different people from within our company and to forge some new friendships. I’m sure the trip will be life changing and I’m very much looking forward to being immersed in a totally different culture to our own and helping these kids towards a better life.

Dominic House

Dominic House. I’ve been working for the various guises of Virgin Media for around 18 years, mainly in the network planning arena. I’m more of a ‘jack of all and master of none’ kind of guy and find pleasure in learning how to do something more than just performing a task. I thrive in environments where I have to learn something quickly under a bit a pressure and enjoy the challenge of understanding how things work. I consider myself a logical thinker and love a bit of change to keep me inspired. I lead a small national team of highly motivated and autonomous people. We’re not customer facing but everything we do is geared up to providing our customers quicker broadband speeds. I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled to many wonderful places and love experiencing new culture. I consider myself a citizen of the world and not just my own back yard! I’ve aspired to supporting a project like Meserani for many years and feel privileged to have the opportunity now, especially with the support of Virgin Media. I look forward to making a real difference in Tanzania.’

Gerry McCabe

Gerry McCabe. I have  two  grown up  daughters , one is in Canada on a two year Visa and the other is in her last year of a nursing degree. Playing football (I’m a member of Avonmouth Football and Shirehampton’s Men’s Club – I regularly turn out for their veterans, normally on a Sunday every couple of weeks). Just taking up refereeing local football. Getting across to the most westerly part of Europe (Achill Island) to cut and ‘bring-in’ turf, go lobster and salmon fishing, and generally just recharge the batteries. Where my mother lives!!!  Attending spectator sports including football and rugby, the odd walk, cycle, and weekend city break.

Bob Nixon

Bob Nixon. I’ve been with Virgin Media for 4 years now working as an Engineer in the Stoke-on-Trent area. I was born and raised in the Staffordshire Moorlands in what was a small farming village and live there with my long suffering wife and two kids. I’m very much a ‘hands on’ type of person, preferring to use a spanner rather than a laptop and more than happy to get my hands dirty. Over the years I’ve done a bit of travelling to various continents both as a tourist and as a contractor, but never to Africa and never on a project such as this.  For me this is an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity that is not to be missed.  An opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives in helping them to have things that we take for granted every day. I’ve no doubt that this trip will open my eyes and make me once again appreciate what I have in life and to see what is truly important.

David CarterDavid Carter. I am a fun loving kind of guy, I love to travel and socialise. I have worked for Virgin Media for 5 years now working in the planning  Dept in Network Expansion . I have let myself go a bit since leaving the Military and feel this opportunity will give me the kick start I need to start turning this back around . I enjoy the occasional cocktail and meals out which is my downfall I love food . I am a qualified tennis coach and even represented the Army but I have not done much since leaving . I look forward to seeing you all and making ever lasting memories together.

 Charlotte WilloughbyCharlotte Willoughby. I have been with Virgin Media just over 4 months now as a network engineer, previous to that I studied English, maths and Business at college, I am the very proud owner of my 1990 classic mini called millacent which is blue and pink! I am 18 years old, fun and always up for an adventure! My passions are driving and collecting cars which I’ve owned 14 different cars already, I’m always up for a laugh and never afraid to get my hands dirty, I absolutely love my job and am a very happy teen. I’m currently looking at doing my bike license and adding more cars to my collection.

Sarah WatersSarah Waters. I applied for the Meserani Project as it is a great opportunity to be able to offer help and gain experience within another community, I believe it will encourage me to develop and grow in my personal life as well meet different people from all walks of life.

Meserani Project logo

From The Meserani Project:

PeterPeter 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. The inaugural visit to Meserani by a team from Virgin Media in 2015 was a huge success, and I am delighted that Chris has got another team together to join us in 2017. I look forward to meeting you all, and sharing Tanzania with you all.

Kibera 2012Diane 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. The group from Virgin Media in 2015 were amazing, and they achieved so much. I am sure that the 2017 visit will be equally as wonderful, and I look forward to meeting everyone.