Kate Winser is an avid Psycl-ist, a marathon runner and a philanthropist in her own right. In late 2015, she travelled to Kenya to do charity work, train for the London Marathon and, ultimately, realign herself with what truly matters. Keep reading to learn more about Kate, the charities she's devoted to and what it's like to train for the London Marathon.
How did your journey with the Nasio Trust begin?
I had just over a month in between jobs in London and was looking for an international project I could focus on during that time and also continue helping once back to work here in the UK. I looked at lots of charities and projects all over the world and the Nasio Project immediately jumped out at me. It is a wonderful charity and my great fondness to Kenya pulled me towards it.
The Project runs Early Childhood Development Centres in Mumias and Musanda, under-served rural areas of western Kenya with high levels of HIV. The Centres provide a daily meal, pre-primary education and medical care to over 350 orphaned and disadvantaged children, while keeping them in a family environment. The charity supports children all the way through to higher education and employment, creating opportunities for them to escape poverty, fulfill their potential and build futures for themselves and their communities.
It also works to improving living conditions within local areas by building income streams and tackling the root causes of poverty. The focus is on sustainability and collaboration, ensuring these projects outlast the Trust’s involvement in the area. Once a community can manage its own projects, we move on to help other communities to become self-sustaining.
Why the Nasio Trust?
The Nasio is a humble but effective charity. It specializes in looking after and caring for children affected by HIV, whether they are orphaned through the disease or have contracted it themselves. It’s aim is to give local children in the surrounding community healthcare, education and, most importantly, hope for life. It does this with a huge amount of hard work from the Nasio team and surrounding community in the medical Centres and partnering hospitals that they have built.
There is a real movement of people wanting to use their free time and holidays to volunteer and to give back. This is known as volunteerism. I think this should be a necessity for people of all ages. Doing something selfless and helping where help is needed is an incredibly satisfying use of one’s time. And I could not recommend the Nasio Trust more.
What did the day to day look like for you in Kenya?
Early starts. One naturally wakes up very early with the noises of Africa…plus I had some very chatty geese as my neighbours.
Where and when I could, normally weather depending, I would wake up at 5AM and walk the four miles to the top of nearby Bukaya Hill, sit on my favourite rock and watch sun rise. Wherever you are in the world, sunrise and sunset is the most meditative time and one to be savoured.
Around 8AM, I would either drive to the local hospital in Mumias, where I would assist with ward checks, cleaning, handing out meals - anything that was needed and, although tough and I was sometimes out of my depth, I kept going as the bottom line is that a little help goes along way.
We would pay home visits to the Nasio Trust School, St Irene’s, to see the children and their guardians and to find out what they needed. We would check on the health of the students, the state of their water systems and look out for any diseases or situations that needed immediate assistance. It was during that time that my relationship with the staff and the children developed, and I could see their trust in me growing on a daily basis.
One of my visits was to Lucy, an 11 year old girl who cares for her blind grandmother, her only living relative. It was remarkable to see such a young child bear such a responsibility, and amazing to see how she was monitored and supported by the Nasio Trust.
How did you balance training and charity work?
Being there made me realize how fast-paced we are as Westerners. We cram so much in to our day before crashing into bed and starting all over again. Kenya has a much slower approach to life, which can of course be less conducive to the workday, but it meant there was a much quieter approach to everything. We therefore finished work at around 4.30PM, which gave me time to run for an hour before it became dark at around 6PM.
What was the training like? Surely, the conditions were quite different than in England. How did you cope?
I ran on the same dirt road every day, which often meant I was joined by overeager children on their way back from collecting water and wood which was always fun. But I did have to contend with enormous sugar cane trucks which would hurtle down the roads, kicking up dust everywhere and sometimes forcing me jump into the nearest bush to avoid being run over.
The Nasio Trust isn’t the only charity you support! Tell us a bit about the charity you’ll be running for in April.
I am running for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a charity very close to my heart, which focuses on mental health and depression in today's tough society. Depression is becoming more and more apparent and is an illness that should not be overlooked. The tireless work of incredible charities like The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust raises awareness and provides support for sufferers of depression. I am so proud to be running for them.
How is your training going now?
Very, very cold and wet, which I am not enjoying at all. That said, I ran 13 miles in the Cotswolds this weekend and it was so stunning with clear blue skies that it made up for the weeks of cold.
After work I usually run past the Serpentine lake most night and in the dark the water is pretty spectacular, lit up by the street lights. It makes you feel as if you are the only person in London, which is very rare.
Despite my love of watching the sun rise, I will admit that I am not a morning person and so the majority of my training happens at night, which I love. It rids you of the work day and I love the sense of achievement I get falling into bed knowing I’ve have trained hard.
How has it been coming back and what are the biggest lessons from the trip that you’ll take forward into your life?
It hugely shifted my perspective. You underestimate the hardships that people from other countries battle with on such a monumental scale.
I didn’t save lives but I know that every little helps and I’m I am so glad thankful for the experience and can now continue to raise funds and build awareness for the Nasio Trust.
A great friend and I have started the Nasio Football Shirt Campaign which collects unwanted football kit and equipment and sends them to the children in the villages. One of the boys I had met wore the same Chelsea shirt every day and he refused to be parted with it. This gave gave me the inspiration as I know how much it means to the children, a small luxury they don’t have access to.
2015 was a pretty unpleasant year for me and my trip helped me realign and come back to focus. It got rid of my worry and truly offered me a huge amount of perspective. I learned not to take anything I have in life for granted, we are incredibly lucky.