Corrie Fraser

CO-FOUNDER AND UK DIRECTOR | KIDS CLUB KAMPALA

What do you do?

I am the co-founder and UK director of Kids Club Kampala (KCK): a charity that works with children in the slums of Kampala.

How did you get there?

Whilst on a gap year in Uganda as an 18 year old I met Olivia Barker and Sam Wambayo. Sam brought us into the slums of Kampala. We were shocked and saddened by the conditions that these kids had to grow up in, and we began to run children’s activities each week for the kids there. The kids lacked so many basic necessities such as education, good healthcare, sanitation, clothes and food. We knew that more needed to be done to address these needs and we realised that there were no charities there to support them. Upon returning to Uganda a year later at the age of 19, Olivia, Sam and I decided to register as an NGO. Since then, the organisation has expanded exponentially to include projects that support children in 17 different slum communities in the areas of food security, education, basic needs, sanitation, community development and more.

What did you study at university and how does it help with your current job?

I studied Psychology at university and then went on to do a Masters in Developmental Psychology. Studying the psychology of child development has helped me to adapt projects and systems within KCK to support the needs of developing children. Children need support in order to learn and develop, especially if they live in a slum environment. I am able to understand the reasons why certain support plans and projects have a long lasting impact on a child’s life and their future success, which is really important. It also helps me to understand children who have experienced trauma in their lives and find a way to support them for the future. In addition to this I have been able to provide training to our staff and volunteers in Uganda on a range of child development theories, allowing them to base their practice on developmental psychology.

What does a “typical work day” entail?

I work part-time for KCK as a voluntary UK Director. I spend most of my time in the UK fundraising, running events, doing talks to encourage others to make a difference in the developing world and doing a range of administrative work. I am also the child sponsorship co-ordinator, communicating with sponsors and trying to find new ones to support children’s education in Uganda. A large part of the job requires co-operation with Ugandan staff, including regular video-conferencing and trips to the field in Uganda. During my trips to Uganda, a typical day involves visiting projects, monitoring and evaluation, planning new projects and providing a range of training workshops to local staff and volunteers. Of course I always find some time to simply hang out with the kids, play a few games and catch up with children who are part of our sponsorship programme.

What are the most and least rewarding aspects of your job?

The most rewarding part of the job is seeing individual lives changed on a daily basis, rescuing children from abandonment, supporting women to gain a good livelihood for their families and seeing little lives gain hope for a brighter future. The job can be stressful and it comes with a lot of responsibility. Fundraising is not easy and finding support from within the UK is probably the most challenging part, much of our funding is in the form of one-off giving which is a huge blessing but also makes it tough to plan for the future. Our ultimate aim would be to become more sustainable and secure more regular funding. On a personal level it is also difficult to support myself along with running KCK, but it is also 100% worth the hard work and I couldn’t imagine my life being any different.

What advice would you give to somebody who would like to do a similar job?

If you have a dream to make a difference in the world, just go for it. Many people may suggest you're too young, that you don’t have enough money or the right connections, but don’t let that hold you back and don’t be afraid of a little sacrifice. Struggling hard to do something that makes a difference in the lives of others even when you do not get repayment is much more rewarding than dedicating your life to a job that pays the bills but doesn’t fulfil your soul.

What are the key skills that make you good at what you do?

Upon beginning this journey and founding Kids Club Kampala at the age of 19 I didn't have any skills worth mentioning, other than an inability to ignore the compassion I felt for the children and communities I met in Uganda. However, as the journey continued, I quickly had to develop my skills in organisation, planning and creativity. Confidence, determination and commitment were needed to enable me to continue when things were stacked against us. I do believe that the skills that I have in developmental psychology have been useful, along with my colleague Olivia Barker’s skills in international development and Sam Wambayo’s business administration skills. Team work is the most valuable skill we all have developed to enable us to work together across cities and continents in order to run a successful NGO that impacts the lives of many.

What is the toughest lesson you have learnt?

To stand up for what I believe is right, despite being tempted to do what I believe is easiest. When the world tells you to be sensible and chase an achievable dream job but your heart tells you to spend your life committed to the cause of the poor, it’s easy to feel like you want to give up but I have learned to be determined and to dream big rather than to just live a sensible comfortable life.

What is the mistake you wish you hadn’t done?

Not seeing the bigger picture from the beginning. Initially I truly believed that we would only be able to raise enough money to stay the size we were and simply to support the children that we had first met. I underestimated the need in the slums which I now know is virtually never-ending, and I also underestimated the relative wealth of the West. People are often more willing then you think to support the poor across the world and the truth is that what seems like a small amount to us here in the UK really does go along way in the life of a child living in the slums.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you tackle it?

I think my biggest personal challenge was leaving university and trying to find a job to support myself that would also allow me time to run KCK. Being able to establish a work base in the UK in order to sustain and develop our projects in Uganda still remains our biggest challenge. I manage this challenge through determination, ingenuity and a certain amount of sacrifice.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I am really excited that today, 47 children are sponsored to go to school through Kids Club Kampala and have the chance to receive a good education. I’m really happy that children who cannot afford to go to school or eat a hot meal can come to our Encouraging Education classes for free every evening and receive a hot nutritious meal after their lessons. Mostly I am really proud that ordinary people in the UK who give to KCK and participate in the redistribution of wealth across such an unfair and unbalanced world have supported all this.

For my work with KCK I was also honoured to receive, along with my colleague Olivia, an Ultimate Global Champions Cosmopolitan Ultimate Woman of the Year Award in December 2013.

Do you have a role model and if so who and why?

My role model has always been the woman who my parent’s named me after, Corrie Ten Boom. She was a Dutch lady who, although not a Jew herself, helped to provide a hiding place for Jewish people during the World War II. She and her family were thrown into a concentration camp for this crime and she was the only one who survived the war. Her Jewish friends escaped capture because of her help. I admire her for defending those who were discriminated against, for standing in the gap when she was not rewarded in any way, and for putting her life at risk for others. Those who live in extreme poverty are treated by this world as less important and the way our world is set up for the rich nations to prosper at the expense of the poorer ones is unjust. I have to advocate for these people and stand up for their rights. I may not be putting my life on the line like Corrie Ten Boom, but I endeavour to believe that I would do such a thing if it came to it, I always want to put others first even when the world puts them last. 

Corrie Fraser - Co-founder and UK Director of Kids Club Kampala

Seven years' experience

CV in brief: 

Studied: Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, Development Psychology at the University of Dundee

Previously worked at: University of Aberdeen, Division of Psychiatry and NHS

Find her online

Twitter: @CorrieLatham

Internships and volunteering opportunities with Kids Club Kampala

Encouraging Education Project

Corrie Fraser with Olivia Barker, UK Director of Kids Club Kampala

Corrie Fraser with Olivia Barker, UK Director of Kids Club Kampala