Dr Dan Magnus, Co-founder of Child.org reflects on the charity’s birth, its success and its future.

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Dr Daniel Magnus is a Fellow in Paediatric Emergency Medicine at the SickKids hospital in Toronto. He has a special interest in global child health and has more than 10 years of project experience in Kenya as co-founder of Child.org – a charity working in east Africa on child health and education programmes. Dan is the Convenor of the RCPCH International Child Health Group and completed an MSc in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dan is currently working in the Emergency Department at the SickKids hospital in Toronto and is working on research focused on improving paediatric trauma data and outcomes in low-resource settings. 


It is hard to believe but the consciousness around global health, poverty and the world’s poorest children was still in its infancy in 2001. Nobody really knew what the Millennium Development Goals were, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB continued to ravage sub-Saharan Africa and Bill Gates had only just decided to start a foundation to help children in these countries. In 2001 there were more than 10 million under-5 deaths worldwide. That number was 6.3 million in 2013.

As a 22 year old medical student at Nottingham University a group of us, in between lectures and anatomy classes, decided that we needed to do something and in a dimly lit bar in Nottingham. Beccy Smith and I decided that we would start a student group to help turn a small dilapidated hotel into a hospital for vulnerable children in western Kenya. We would call it KOP (later to become Child.org).

A year later we led a group of 23 students to Kisumu to help with the building work and to raise funds to support the building of Port Florence Community Hospital on the shores of Lake Victoria. The birth of the charity was complete. A picture of the team from 2002 hangs on the wall above my desk and is signed with messages of thanks from the team and it reminds me every day that from small seeds can come big trees.

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In the 14 years since the start of KOP and that first trip, KOP – now Child.org – has achieved something amazing. The charity has initiated and supported projects and millions of pounds in fundraising that have supported the health, education and welfare of thousands of children in Kenya and driven forward the capacity of local groups to foster sustainable development.

Over the years these successes stare up from the pages of reports and spreadsheets. But the stories, the families, the children are real. Emily, the teenage girl whose parents died of AIDS who can’t go to school because she is supporting her younger siblings; Boniface, the young boy living on the streets because he has no home, running scared and hungry; Godfrey, the child with no parents forced to live in an urban slum in desperate need of an education. Countless children who go to school hungry every day with no nets to protect from malaria, no clean water, no hope and no future. These are the names and the faces that I remember well.

In addition to the amazing work supporting children, Child.org has also developed some wonderful friendships and partnerships in Kenya over the years and without the support of these partners we would have achieved very little success. The friendships that have sustained and nourished the organisation during the last decade have been special and memories of friends past and present will stay with me for life.

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At home in the UK the story of Child.org to this point has been one of simply inspiring commitment and dedication from students and people passionate about making a difference. More than a thousand university students made the KOP student programme (now called Charity Apprentice: https://charityapprentice.org/) a huge success and the many others who invested in our development, who helped us to fundraise, who organised events, who came to Kenya to help with medical clinics or to cycle across the East Africa. That these people chose to give their time and energy fills me with humility and joy and I suspect many will never fully appreciate the ways in which they have improved and saved lives and helped to build a better world.

The journey from KOP through to Child.org has not all been plain sailing but one memory stands out for me: when I first went to Kenya I can remember looking out over a field as the sun was setting with tears in my eyes filled with a mixture of anger and hope. Anger about the injustice that forces children to battle with hunger, disease and suffering. Hope about the humanity and responsibility that is thrust upon all of us who are able, to challenge this, to do something – anything – and to work together towards a brighter future for children.

www.Child.org

Dr Dan Magnus

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