Kingswood Association News
Old Kingswoodian news is a section of the website for you to read about Old Kingswoodians and what they have been doing recently.
If you feel you have a story to tell or know of anyone who does please email the Association Office.
My time in Fiji is pretty hard to sum up in words. The two months I was there was definitely the best time of my life; a crazy, fun, exciting, adventurous and emotional rollercoaster. I went with an amazing company called “Think Pacific” which is a fairly small but rapidly growing organisation based in Leeds. They are linked to the Fijian government and underperforming schools sign up and “Think Pacific” send in a team of volunteers to different schools in areas around the islands of Fiji. My project was on an island, south of the mainland, called Kadavu, an eighteen hour ferry journey away. Our home for the two months was a tiny village called RakiRaki with just thirty lovely families, a church, school, and community hall. Fijian houses are very different to English houses; with a hole in the ground for a loo, congregated iron shower, and tiny sleeping/living area for the whole family - in my case all nine of us!
I went out there with an amazing group of twenty one volunteers. We were separated into pairs and assigned a family in the village who we lived with. For me, making an amazingly close bond with my Fijian family was the highlight of my whole five month trip away. My family was made up of Nana (my Fijian mother), Tata (Fijian father) and then I had five siblings; two girls and three boys. I had such a special relationship with Nana and this is something that I will never forget. We would sit drinking tea, laughing for hours and her smile was so infectious. I’ll always remember the sound of her booming laugh when Vani (the sweetest little eight year old you will ever meet) was running naked around the house chasing all the chickens away!
The main objective of the trip was to help with the schools and improve the children’s education. The group was split in half with one group going into RakiRaki’s school called Yale District and the other half, me included, went to another school very close by called Navikadi Primary School in Gasele village. Every morning our group’s commute to school was on a small motor boat where we would sing songs at the top of our voices as we made our way around to the next door cove where the school was. When we first arrived at the school the teacher highlighted the weaker students in the class for us to take out for one-to-one teaching in English and Mathematics which we would do every morning. The afternoons were definitely the children’s favourite part of the day. On three days a week we would run sport sessions which would always include lots of silly races and games. We taught many sports, mainly focusing on netball and rugby but also taught hockey, lacrosse, cricket, football, rounders and Zumba! On the other two afternoons we ran ‘House Cup’. This involved the children and volunteers being mixed up
into four different teams and competing in different challenges e.g. music, drama, photography, art. It was so much fun!
Saturdays were the excursion days with crazy hikes through the hills surrounding the village, making rafts, going fishing, having family days. Again it was so much fun! Fiji is a strongly Christian country and so Sundays are treated strictly as the Sabbath. We all attended church in the morning with incredible singing and then would laze around in the sun in the afternoon by the beach underneath palm trees chatting, writing journals or writing quiz questions for our weekly Monday evening quiz night! Most evenings there was something going on. You would have dinner at home with your family and then we’d all head out for something like fan weaving, children games nights or a classic ‘grog’ session. If you’ve been to Fiji then you will definitely know what grog/kava is! It’s a root crop grounded to powder and mixed with water drunk out of coconut shells; if you drink enough makes you feel very sleepy but there would always be loud crazy Fijian music going on meaning you couldn’t ever be too tired!
The culture that Fijian’s live by is utterly inspirational. They are the most kind, generous and selfless people that I have ever met. Respect is regarded highly. Men had to wear shirts sulu’s (Fijian name for sarongs) to teach in and women had to wear dresses or sulu’s covering their knees and always have their shoulders covered. They follow a ‘Open Door’ policy and when walking through the village every house would call out to you inviting you in for food and tea. They get huge joy from hosting and caring for other people. The way Fijians live their life in such appreciation for the little amount of money and items they own, but always having huge smiles and beaming out happiness, was truly inspirational to all of our volunteer group.
As well as my family being the highlight of my trip, I also adored teaching an eight year old boy named John. I loved all twelve students in Class 3 & 4 where I was teaching; arriving everyday into the classroom and seeing the most beautiful faces turn and beam at you was so incredible and I had a special bond which each and every one of them. However, I had an extra special bond with John. He was highlighted as a slow learner and therefore every morning for the whole time I was there I would take him out and teach him English and Mathematics to try and keep him up with his classmates. For around three days I was teaching him long division, which is tricky even for me! I had a strong feeling he didn’t understand it at all - he was also rather a cheeky little boy and got distracted very easily! I felt saddened that I couldn’t find a way to get the method of Mathematics through to him. However, one day I was teaching the whole class and decided to ask them all to complete a few long division questions that I had written on the board. To my utter amazement John was the first to put his hand up to all the questions and got every single one of them right! Moments like that made me realise just how important the work that all us volunteers had been doing was and we could genuinely change someone’s future.
As much as I enjoyed the whole experience, all twenty of us definitely, and quite naturally, had some down days. The culture shock is very large, the home comforts were far away and it can easily get you down. It was boiling hot every day and night and having no privacy from anyone was rather hard as well. We had two serious cyclones during which my family had to be evacuated from home and also many of the volunteers struggled quite a lot with the food. We mainly ate rice and cassava (slighting like a dry potato). The heavy carb based foods we were eating and the change of environment put a lot of pressure on people’s health. I was very ill at some points during the trip but I genuinely believe it made the whole trip better because there was no cushioning to it. I was living in raw Fiji which made the whole experience utterly beautiful and with the lows it just emphasised the highs.
I have made bonds for life with the volunteers and my Fijian family who I hope to go and visit again soon. I have learnt so many lessons about myself and about the world and I can say very easily that it has been the best two months of my life. Without the Gary Best Travel Scholarship I would’ve struggled to fund my trip and I am so thankful for it. I would recommend this to anyone and would love to chat if you’re interested!
Keith Lueng was student at Kingswood School from 2001 to 2008 and was a proud Middle House man under the reign of Mr Opie as his Housemaster. He still keeps in touch with Mr Opie and enjoyed looking after him when Mr Opie visited Hong Kong in 2014. While he was at Kingswood he enjoyed competing in a range of sports representing the school at rugby, hockey and football, as well as in an occasional table tennis match. Since he left school in 2008 he has found a new passion and has completed eleven marathons and a number of Ultra marathons. The following is his account of some of the races:
It all started back in 2008, when my Dad joined in the 23rd edition of the Marathon Des Sables (MDS), a 254km, 7 days race in the Sahara Desert. He came back, feeling elated and asked if I wanted to do it too. My response was, “Which ……. would want to do something like this? I am perfectly happy just chilling at home, going out with friends or doing whatever.” Fast forward four years, and I became one of those ….. completing in the 27th edition, raising money for a charity called U-Hearts.
During the Marathon Des Sables race, I heard about The Grand Slam Championship. This is a challenge that requires runners to complete a full marathon in all seven continents and the North Pole. So, year on year, I have been working hard to tick off each continent on the list whilst raising money for different charities.
In 2012, I ran the Hong Kong 100km Trail Walker for Oxfam. In 2013 I participated in the North Pole Marathon, whilst helped promote Green Monday, and in 2015 I completed the Antarctic 100km Ice Ultramarathon with a school called Christian Zheng Sheng College.
I attempted the Grand2Grand Ultra 2018 which is a run over 7 days. A course running over 273km through a high desert landscape of sand dunes, red rock slot canyons, buttes, mesas and hoodoos. The weather was the toughest enemy with temperatures hitting 50 degrees regularly and dropping to as low as 5 degrees after sunset. This was a really tough moment for me, because it was my 14th marathon/ultra-marathon, but the first one that I was unable to complete. To be “DNF” – did not finish - in a race that I had prepared for, for over a year, was heart breaking. Having to pick myself up after what happened was extremely difficult but I have now decided to go back again next year! I really am one of those ….s! In order to prepare better, and make sure I don’t have to go back for a third time, I am going to complete a few other races before September 2019. I have entered the Macau marathon in December 2018, the Mt Fuji (Japan) 100km Apr 2019, the Apes (Italy) 87km June 2019 and many of the shorter ones within Hong Kong!
Each marathon I have completed has different memories for me. If I were to pick a few that stand out they would include: the Sahara 254k, the Hong Kong 100k, the North Pole 42k, the Chile 70k and the South Pole 100k. However, if I had to pick just one, it would be a 42 k run in New Zealand. It wasn’t so much the distance nor the location, but what happened.
I broke my left arm in a rugby match five weeks prior to the marathon. I broke both the radius and ulna and my doctor said no sports for at least three months. I ignored this and started training for the marathon with only two weeks left. When only a quarter of the way through this marathon I found myself suffering from dehydration and very nearly gave up and so was very proud to complete this particular marathon.
I have run all my marathons for different charities. I don’t have a donation page, it’s just a race by race thing. In my last marathon I was supporting a charity called WheelForOneness (WFO).
Charlie and Theo at the top of Thorong La Pass, 5460m above sea level.
This year, the Old Kingswoodian Association has had the pleasure of two excellent gap year students, Theo Gammie and Charlie Knight. We thought we would share what else they have got up to on their year off.
The list of countries covered between the two of them is quite impressive. Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, and Nepal.
Here they share a few highlights;
Charlie says a particular early highlight was Medellín in Colombia.
"Despite its troubled history, Medellín has done an incredible job at transforming itself into a safe (by Colombian standards), vibrant and fun city, whilst still retaining its gritty core. As a geographer, I also can’t help but admire the innovative transport project of the city’s cable car system, providing transport to the informal hillside settlements."
Both keen walkers, they have covered a lot of miles on foot in a huge variety of landscapes. Patagonia ranks up there as one of the most stunning, including Fitz Roy in Argentina.
Another highlight was camping at some of the most impressive campsites in the world, such as this one on the shores of Lago Viedma in Argentinian Patagonia. Getting up for this 3am sunrise was ‘worth it, in every way'.
Wondering amongst the mysterious giant Moai of Easter Island, and admiring long practiced Rapa Nui rituals such as sledging down a volcano on banana trees on a tiny lump of rock 2000km from the next nearest piece of land was a perspective changing experience.
Trekking the Annapurna Circuit together in the Nepali Himalaya together was another highlight. Climbing over the Thorong La pass at 5400m was a physical challenge, and they woke every morning at 5am for spectacular sunrises in the mountains.
Theo said: "I knew the Himalayas would be big, but when you stand under a 8000m mountain in person, and gaze up to it, it’s truly inspiring."
Theo carried the Kingswood Prep School mascot, Rudyard, with him on his travels, pictured here in Ha Long Bay, Vientam, and Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal.
They both feel the experiences they gained was life changing, and would urge anyone in younger years considering doing the same to contact Michele at the Old Kingswoodian Association for a chat about the Association gap year opportunities.
The annual KAN Magazine is sent to all members and is supplemented by regular electronic and social media communication. The 2019 KAN Magazine can be read by clicking on the image below and it will provide readers with an update of what has been going on in the Old Kingswoodian Association over the past year. The next issue will be available from June 2020.
Gary Best Travel Scholarship
The scholarship is awarded annually to any Old Boy or Old Girl under the age of 26 who will carry out work for a charity/NGO which benefits a community in a deprived part of the world. The work, whether paid or unpaid, must have an altruistic and socially beneficial aim and done within a 12-month period from the date of the award. In the past, awards have ranged from £300-£500, but this is dependent on the number of successful applicants and the amount to be disbursed.
The deadline for the Gary Best Travel Scholarship is Monday 1 June 2020.
To find out more about the Gary Best Travel Scholarship, please contact the Association office.