Sam Smith

Sam Smith

Sam brings you the latest stories, interviews and updates about British Red Cross work in Syria, Africa and the Americas.

Posts by Sam Smith:

The Kenyan village where children are teaching adults



When it comes to education, it’s usually the role of the parents to encourage and inspire their children to learn.

Not so for Magdalene Langat. The gregarious mother-of-three isn’t shy in admitting that it’s her children who are inspiring her to learn.

“I’m studying maths and Kiswahili,” said Magdalene, with a proud smile etched across her face.

“I wanted to enrol for adult education as I’ve seen how well my kids have been doing at school.”


Landmines and gunshot wounds: A London nurse in South Sudan


South SudanSwapping South Sudan for south London, Claudia Dias is starting to readjust to life back in the UK.

Gunshot wounds, malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia, dehydration and landmine injuries. Hardly the everyday ailments found on her NHS ward.

For the last six months, the 29-year-old Portuguese nurse has been working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in South Sudan where her nursing skills have been put to the test.

“The work is completely different, you have to learn quickly and adapt while working with very basic equipment,” said Claudia.

“It is hard to see children and women with gunshot wounds. They are not involved in the fighting. They are just caught in the middle.”


Talking toilets over tea in Kenya


Kenya Clean Start Appeal

“We would get sick all the time, but we didn’t know what was making us sick.” Edna Mastamet is sat cradling her grandchild in her small mud house in western Kenya.

The 53-year-old shakes her head as she recounts how bad conditions used to be in her rural village.

“It was so dirty, people would just defecate anywhere they could,” she explained, pointing towards a nearby road that doubled up as a toilet.

“No one had toilets, there were a few makeshift structures, but nothing proper.”


Clean water and toilets – it’s child’s play in Kenya


Clean water and toilets KenyaClean water and toilets can make a world of difference, just ask the teachers and children at Kimangora Primary School in Kenya.

Since the school got new toilets and clean water in September last year, the diseases that hampered pupils’ health and education are becoming a thing of the past.

“We used to have a fluctuation in attendance,” said Solomon Chepkwony, a teacher at the Bomet County school.

“We had pupils who would be here for one school term, and then not show for the second. That was because of ill health and poor facilities.

“We only had two toilets that were being shared by more than 60 pupils and staff. The toilets were terrible because they were being used by so many people. They would become very dirty and smelly.

“Instead of using them, children would defecate outside.”


Kenya’s dirty water: Three simple steps, one huge difference


Clean Start AppealClean water, toilets and washing your hands: three things that are so vital in preventing the spread of disease.

Now thanks to people like you, a new Red Cross water and sanitation project is helping 155,000 people in Kenya.

Our water expert Claire Grisaffi explains how we’re spending the money raised through our Clean Start Appeal to help families in Kenya.


Nine photos from one of the world’s worst crises


South SudanNot yet five years old, South Sudan has spent nearly half its existence mired in conflict.

As a result, the world’s youngest nation is gripped by a severe humanitarian crisis that is affecting large parts of the population.

Take a look at these photos to see the impact of the crisis and how the Red Cross is helping.


Europe refugee crisis: So close to death, so close to safety


Grande-Synthe, Dunkirk, refugees

Authorities in France have started to demolish part of the refugee camp in Calais known as the ‘jungle’. Estimates as to the number of people who could be affected range from 800 to 3,455. With nowhere else to go, refugees could relocate to the camp at Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk, where conditions are even worse than Calais. Bryar, a nurse from Iraq, is among the thousands of refugees already living in Grande-Synthe.

In the last 18 months, Bryar has stared at death on more than one occasion.

Certain death was the reason why he fled Iraq. He almost perished aboard a sinking inflatable boat in the Mediterranean. Upon reaching Europe, only scavenging for discarded food kept him from starvation.

And now the 27-year-old nurse is in the midst of a squalid camp in northern France with little protection from the winter.

Yet his story of tussles with death is not special or unique. It is the norm. Talk to anyone at the Grande-Synthe camp and they will all tell you similar tales.


Meet the ‘mother of the jungle’ at Dunkirk refugee camp


Roonak, pictured with her son Beshwar, centre

“The only thing that people have here is hope,” says Beshwar. “There’s no clean water. There are no showers, there aren’t enough toilets. What else do we have?”

The mud consumes everything in the dank squalor of the Grande-Synthe camp, near Dunkirk. Flimsy tents offer little protection from the rain and cold. Rats and diseases are rife. It is inhumane.

The camp is home to around 3,000 refugees, mostly Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. There are many families here, including around 300 children.

The inhabitants spend their days trying to keep warm and dry. They spend their nights trying to find an unguarded lorry bound for the UK.