Vanessa’s story

Vanessa Grant (nee Kingsford) was born in Kenya on July 14th, 1960. She was the second of six children born to David and Margaret Kingsford who were farming at that time on a property near the large rural town of Nakuru on the edge of the Rift Valley in Kenya.

David and Margaret emigrated with their six children to Australia ten years later in the summer of 1970. Vanessa and her siblings completed their schooling in Australia. Vanessa seemed to be a natural leader, becoming Head Boarder of her high school in Sydney (Tara Anglican School for Girls).  She went on to major in languages at the University of Sydney. Again showing her leadership tendencies, Vanessa became one of the first women to take a leadership role at one of the University’s residencies, Wesley College.

Having also undertaken a Diploma of Education at University, Vanessa then went on to teach in France where she lived for a short time. It was not long, however, before she found herself drawn back to the country of her birth, which she loved so much. Returning to Kenya, Vanessa taught for several years during which she met her husband Hamish Grant. Together they started a safari company in 1987. They married two years later and took over the management of “Gogar Farm”, Hamish’s family farm, in 1993. It was mostly a dairy and cropping farm. They soon saw the potential for a viable dairy processing business and eventually established one of Kenya’s largest privatised milk processing facilities.

Vanessa led an extremely busy life during her adult years in Kenya, running the safari and milk processing businesses with Hamish, as well as playing a significant role in the day to day management of the farm, their dairy herd and arable crops. In 1994, Vanessa and Hamish’s son Alexander was born, but two years later Vanessa’s life was tragically cut short when she died having their second child, a girl called Seiya. Vanessa died the day before her 37th birthday.  Soon after her death, Hamish founded the Vanessa Grant Trust (VGT) ,  as a means of honoring her wish that more be done for the many disadvantaged children in the community who, through lack of resources and opportunity, were largely denied basic education and care.

Vanessa was passionate about the provision of education and opportunity, particularly for girls and young women. This passion was founded during her years of teaching in Europe and Africa as well as observations she had made of isolated rural communities when she lead safaris through Kenya.  Through her experiences, Vanessa developed a strong belief in the power of education to lift individuals and communities out of poverty. She also carried with her a life-long commitment to equal opportunities for women, nowhere more starkly apparent than in the rural communities of Kenya.  It was her warmth and enthusiasm that drew so many people to her ideas about the need for education and opportunity for girls and young women.
With this glimpse of her short life, it’s easy to see how the establishment of the Vanessa Grant Trust with it’s objectives of supporting education in rural Kenya could have made such a difference to so many young lives. It is a worthy testament in to the strengths and ideals of this remarkable person.

“Vanessa was a woman of incredible vision, compassion and determination. Educating women, particularly in the developing world, is now accepted as not only a key human right but also importantly a key for a nation’s participation in the global economy. For those who supported and loved Vanessa, to have started this process through her legacy at Rongai and now for us to watch the avalanche of talented and exceptional young women coming from the schools, is quite remarkable.  It is a wonderful recognition of this special person. This program truly makes a difference and makes us proud not only of our dear friend and sister but also of our own small efforts”

Stephen Porges.,
Committee member, VGT Australia
Ambassador of VGGS