Charity isn’t the first thing which comes to mind when you think of raving. However, one brand has sought to change that stigma. After initially donating back profits from parties, ABODE now funds a fully fledged charity, with a growing number of donors and volunteers making a difference to children’s lives in Africa.
We spoke to ABODE Co-owner Kai Cant to find out more about The ABODE Project in Uganda, touching on the charity’s story so far, some of the most memorable moments and what’s in store for the future.
Hi Kai, thanks for coming to speak to us about the amazing work your charity is doing. Firstly, where did it all start for you and what was the inspiration behind The ABODE Project?
I’ve been doing charity parties for the past four years since I started promoting and raised currently around £150,000. For the first two years the funds were raised for Cancer Research and Macmillan, as cancer is quite close to home for me. The problem I had was that at the time my partner was working for a large international charity who support children in Africa, and she was telling me about how much money the directors of these charities were being paid. So I thought, surely it can’t be that hard to go to Africa and build a school myself. So I went to Kabale with my business partner, and built our first school with every penny being spent on the kids who need it. Today the project runs the same way, we show every donor receipts on the beds, clothes and solar panels etc that they invest in for the kids.
What were your initial thoughts when you landed in Uganda for the first time?
When we first arrived in Uganda after our flight, we hired an old Jeep and they told us not to drive through the night as it was dangerous. It was 11 hours to the village and we drove through the night but got pulled over by military god knows how many times and nearly drove over some road spikes. it’s just life changing – there’s no street lights on the roads, you’re driving in darkness and there’s kids walking up and down the roads at night. Most kids in Uganda at the age of 2-3 are walking the streets on their own to collect water and we could just about see them with the one main beam on the Jeep.
What’s been your biggest milestone of the project so far?
My biggest milestone would be two of the kids – one we saved from having their leg amputated, the other little boy who lost his leg we’ve bought a prosthetic limb and now paid for them both to go to school. For me that’s my biggest milestone, knowing that if it wasn’t for us stepping in they could’ve died, as amputations easily become infected out there and without any money they can’t afford the medication.
Do you think enough is being done in the industry to support charitable causes?
There’s loads of people doing charity stuff, a lot of events coming out of Fabric for mental health charities and a lot we probably don’t hear about. I’m pretty sure the big boys at the top do a lot that we don’t hear about. In my circle I don’t think there’s enough and it’s a disgrace. With ABODE booking fairly big DJs and some of them earning what footballers earn in a week with just one gig, I’ve booked them 2,3,4,5 times without them giving a penny to The ABODE Project or even sharing a Facebook post. That’s what has changed my opinion on the industry, I’ve gone from loving it, to still loving my job but I just think it’s a greedy industry. Not everybody, but you go to Africa where nobody has anything and you think how can you justify paying a DJ £30,000 a set.
What’s been the most difficult aspect of the project?
Probably trust, sending money over to Africa and leaving people who are used to earning £20-£30 a month in charge of £10,000 – £15,000. They’re buying the supplies when we’re not there, so we need to trust the prices they’re telling us. Now we have a team out there who represent the charity that we can trust, but before we were being shafted left, right and centre out of our own money.
There must be many great memories you have since the charity begun, but what’s been your most memorable?
My greatest memory would probably be opening the first school. We built it in seven days and had 100 people working on it up until midnight laying bricks. Being able to open a school for kids and orphans who’ve never had an education, never had a hot meal or even somewhere safe to sleep with a bed, to cut that ribbon knowing that The ABODE Project were behind it was very emotional.
What’s next for the project? Are you looking to grow and replicate the schools you’ve built in other areas?
We’re going to keep building on the land we’ve got, currently there’s five classrooms and two orphanages – one for females and one for males. There’s staff offices but we’re taking on opening accommodation to sleep 10 staff members. We’re also building a baby nursery, small medical centre and a barbers which will give free hair cuts to the kids and people in the village. My dream is to build a small football stadium, which we’re looking for funding as it’ll provide an income for the school through competitions and hosting local concerts.
If you could vision the charity in 5 years time, what would it look like?
Five years time from now I’d love to have a fully functional orphanage, with our first intake of kids who are starting in February to have finished school and gone onto secondary education – just to prove to people that these kids don’t need much. They just need a hot meal, a roof above their head, basic education and then they’ve got an opportunity in life. I’d love to build a small hotel out there, where then people and clubbers from the UK can go to Uganda safely and spend time with the kids, teaching them things and also learning from the kids themselves, living with them. We’re want to make charity fun, rather than it all being so sad and miserable. People always see these sad adverts and this is the difference between seeing them and then actually getting off your arse and doing something about it.
Finally, when’s your next trip to Uganda planned?
On January 28th with 39 volunteers, 13 are returning from the last trip, the other 26 are people from Facebook who’ve got in touch wanting to come. They’ve each had to raise £500 in donations to come and there’s a mixture of teachers, builders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, nursery teachers, doctors and dentists. We’ll be building a music school which we’re linking up with a major company in the industry, but I can’t say who yet. The plan is to teach kids how to make music and how to DJ. We’ll also be building a nursery, a kitchen and shower/toilet block in the 8 days we’re over there.
A truly inspirational story, of how dance music can really give back to the less fortunate and change lives for the better. Kai and the team around him which continues to grow as the charity develops have some really exciting plans for the future. With a little help from all of us, we can make those plans a reality and give this community a life which they never thought possible.
Donate to The ABODE Project here.