Changing Perceptions: Gloag Foundation

July 19, 2017

Scotland’s recent entrepreneurship culture is well known. Our rainy green paradise has birthed great go-getters. People such as James Watt and Martin Dickie, funders of the internationally famous BrewDog; Jim Duffy and Brian McGuire, funders of the world largest free business accelerator, Entrepreneurial Spark; and Professor William MacAskill, the youngest ever associate professor at Oxford University and notable figure within the Effective Altruism movement. However, you cannot speak about Scottish Entrepreneurship without mentioning Ann Gloag.

Ann Gloag (Source:

Ann has been described as one of Scotland’s most powerful women and is one of the richest in the country but perhaps the most astonishing facts about her fortune are how she came to it and what she does with it.

After two decades of an excellent career in nursing, Ann decided to realise her long-standing entrepreneurial ambitions by starting a small business. A business that grew from being a charming family enterprise in transport, where Ann would make up sandwiches and snacks for passengers and her brother Brian would drive, to becoming one of the largest transport groups in the UK: Stagecoach Group.

Ann’s entrepreneurial skills can’t be denied and her journey building Stagecoach is an inspiration to all. Yet, the reason that brought us together on this rainy Scottish summer day had nothing to do with buses or Scotland. This Changing Perceptions workshop was centered on The Gloag Foundation, Ann Gloag’s philanthropist pledge to empower those less fortunate to help themselves.

The event

On Thursday 22 June 2017, BRT and Edinburgh Napier’s School of Health and Social Care had the pleasure to facilitating a Changing Perceptions workshop in collaboration with the Gloag Foundation. The event took place at the heart of Edinburgh Napier University’s Sighthill Campus.

Nick Fannin, Head of Bright Red Triangle, opened the event introducing the BRT. For those who do not know us yet, BRT’s role is to help Edinburgh Napier students and staff change the world by supporting and developing their entrepreneurial mind-set and incubating their innovative ideas. If you are a student or recent graduate at Edinburgh Napier University and have an idea of a business or social enterprise you would like to develop get in touch with us here.

Nick Fannin © Gon Asla

After Nick’s great introduction, Bob Wright welcomed the audience to the School of Health and Social Care and sent Professor Tracy Humphrey’s greetings. Tracy is the Dean of the school. Bob is the school’s Academic Lead for Enterprise and Innovation, and the Program Director for Global Healthcare. Bob pointed out the diverse international quality of our audience as more than seven nationalities were represented.

Bob Wright © Gon Asla

Freedom from Fistula Foundation

Lois Boyle is the Director of Operations and Communications for the Gloag Foundation.

Lois Boyle © Gon Asla

Her passionate talk commenced with a quick introduction to the charity’s mission followed by an engaging short video taken from the documentary “Shout Gladi Gladi”.

Freedom from Fistula helps more than 3000 women every year with their health centres in Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi and Sierra Leone. They do this by providing free treatment to women who have fistulas and by helping women deliver safely. On top of helping with their physical ailments, the charity also addresses the social and psychological dimensions of their patient’s health by providing free activities and education as well as entrepreneurial traineeships and the tools they need after leaving to support their successful recovery. Their Sunny Money initiative trains women and provides them with a small solar panel they can use to grow a small business selling energy.

The most common causes of obstetric fistulas are complicated childbirths, badly performed abortions, pelvic fractures, sexual abuse and rape. An estimated two million women in Africa live with obstetric fistula. 100 000 develop the condition every year. Half a million women die from it every year during pregnancy or childbirth and 80% of these deaths are absolutely avoidable.

Fistulas are medical conditions where an abnormal passage between two cavities is formed. In the case of Obstetric Fistula, the birth canal connects with the bladder or rectum. In this situation, faeces and urine leak into the uterus or vagina, causing the woman suffering from it to have no control over their bowels and/or bladder. Incontinence therefore is a big, prevalent symptom that can be truly hard to hide. For this reason, most women and girls in Africa who suffer from obstetric fistula are ostracised by their own families and communities. They are seen as cursed and very often outcast from their own homes.

According to Lois, the biggest challenges the organisation faces are the language barrier, the disagreeable aspects of the culture, and the slow pace of work and life.

For more information visit their website here and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Kenya Children’s Home

Paul MacNeil is the Operations and Human Resources Director for the Gloag Foundation.

Paul MacNeil © Gon Asla

Paul started by thanking Lois for her passionate talk and followed with a charming introductory lesson on the history of Kenya Children’s Home.

It all started when Ann Gloag and her brother visited Kenya in order to assess whether they would benefit from introducing their couching business to the country. Ann was told that one of the biggest problems the industry was facing in the country was stolen fuel. Ann then decided to investigate the problem right there and then by staying around the bus premises until it closed and witness for herself who the perpetrators were. Instead, she was able to observe a member of staff who was cleaning one of the couches find an abandoned baby. This event seemed to be more common than she expected and it was in that moment that the direction of her trip to Kenya changed. Instead of focusing on starting her international expansion, she decided to look into the problems with children abandonment and the state of orphanages in the area. That’s how it all started.

Now the Kenya Children’s Home receives babies and children from a variety of sources, from police to anonymous calls, and even parents bringing them to the door. The operation sustains itself through social enterprises around the area. Most of this business grew from the inherent needs of the home: education, nourishment, clothing and transportation. The Johnathan Gloag Academy is a school marketed for middle class families who are able to spend some money in high quality education for their children, it also provides free schooling for the children from the Home. They also run a high protein flourmill, a bakery, a thrift store with the surplus clothes donated to the school, and a wedding business utilising the couches needed for the children and the grounds around the home. We were all amazed by the fantastically efficient and innovative entrepreneurial approach to financing the Home.

Travel the world

Mandy Gentleman is a lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University and Jen is a final year Child Nursing student.

Mandy Gentleman and Jen © Nika Puri

Jen and Mandy had a guided conversation surrounding the recent trip where Jen had been to Ghana with Work the World. She talked about her experiences working in a very different environment with standards of care that are dissimilar to our own but that showed some refreshing work cultures that she really enjoyed. Jen spoke about the staff singing during their handover report at the beginning of their shift, an action that always set her mood high.

Q&A with Paul and Lois: Questions from the audience

Q: Could you tell us more about the job opportunities in Kenya and Malawi?

A: Both positions are paid internships with the official role of “Program Officer”. They will be reporting directly to their Chief Administrator who is in charge of the operations in the country. One of the qualities that is more sought after for this role is attention to detail. The reason why an international employee is needed is because it has been proven difficult to attain a good level of detail when receiving reports from local staff. The culture in these countries is more relaxed and they are less likely to report problems early on or give extensive relevant information about them. For this reason, attention to detail and good reporting are key aspects for both employment opportunities. Both are positions of a minimum term of 6 months but ideally 12.

Q: Do you provide mental health to patients of Freedom from Fistula?

A: Yes, but it is a rare necessity. The patients tend to support themselves and grow out of their culturally engraved misconceptions once they learn that other women have the same problem. In cases where patients require mental healthcare, psychological and psychiatrically care is provided.

Q: Can you tell us more about the volunteering positions in Kenya Children’s Home?

A: We love to have volunteers. They are a great help to entertain and stimulate the kids. Even though our staff are great, they don’t always have the time to play with the kids or be with the babies as much as we would like them to be. For this reason, we welcome volunteers’ help. The minimum we would accept volunteers for is 1 month but we ideally ask them to stay for 2 to 3 months. This is so that the children have stability. Volunteers need to pay for their own flights, visas, vaccines and living expenses. But we provide with the accommodation.

Q: What is the pay scale of the positions and what kind of qualifications do you ask for?

A: It is a paid internship that would account for around £1000 a month. Most other expenses are included such us living accommodations, flight, vaccines, visas, etc. There are no minimum required qualifications, we generally get recent graduates applying. We value the qualities of the person over their qualifications, as we said before, we are looking for people who pay attention to detail and are able to write good reports. We want people who are proactive and innovative, who can work independently while being part of a team.

Q: Is it possible to work as a nurse for Freedom from Fistula?

A: No, we focus very deeply in local nursing development. If we allowed for nursing placements we would take time and effort from our local nurses and that would be detrimental to our goal.


Nick Fannin and Nika Puri from Bright Red Triangle facilitated an innovative workshop that, as always, succeeded in shaking the attendees out of their comfort zone. The room was divided into groups of up to six people each. As a starting exercise, Nick asked for one person in each group to agree to eat a yogurt while everyone else in the group watched them do it. The group was then asked to converse briefly about the differences they were able to perceive between the person eating the yogurt and their own ways of doing it.

Group members watch their team mate eat a yogurt © Nika Puri

After this lovely ice-breaking exercise, all the groups were given post-its, pens and flipchart paper. They were then asked to individually come up with ideas to improve on the already fantastic projects The Gloag Foundation has, and then put them all together and choose one as a group for them to pitch. Bob and Nick went around the room observing the process and taking notes on the ideas that did not make the cut.

The final pitches were fantastic, from recycling and crafting, to storytelling entrepreneurship culture.

Final lessons from Bob Wright

Do not stereotype. Bob told us a lovely story to help us picture the importance of fighting our own stereotypes. He then proceeded to speak about some of the ideas that were proposed by individual participants but not chosen as a group. He pointed out that Solar Energy is a delicate topic in Africa as solar panels are extremely expensive and are often stolen and sold elsewhere. Medical supplies are not scarce in most places, supplies are simply not a common problem in these regions. Repairing bikes and cars isn’t a problem either as they are already experts in repurposing and making the best out of what they have. The best you can do when you go somewhere new is not to stereotype, and if you want to help, listen to the locals, understand their perspectives and help them express what is it that they really would like help with.


Workshop audience © Nika Puri

The event was very well received. Participants enjoyed been able to interact first hand with our community partners and expressed a desire for more events like this to be organised in the near future. The feedback received expressed how the engaging talks from our partners successfully changed attendees’ perspectives towards charitable organisations. The innovation workshop was also commended and described as being an engaging and great learning experience. The most common constructive feedback we received highlighted the need for earlier and bigger promotion of the event.

Left to right: Paul, Nick, Nika, Bob and Lois © Gon Asla

Bright Red Triangle