Sheikh Family History – Part 2

In line with the Foundation’s wider support of nurturing young talent, we were able to commission International Journalism Masters Student, Kathleen Farmilo to support the professional team commissioned to write the history of Caretech plc and the history of the Sheikh family. In the second of a series of blogs, Kathleen shares what she has learned about the family’s years in Kenya and their move to the UK.

Part of my research has involved listening to interviews with the Sheikh family. Their story is a fascinating one, spanning multiple continents and changing countless number of lives.

Haroon and Farouq’s grandfather emigrated from Pakistan to Kenya, where Haroon, Farouq and their sisters Rukhsana and Noreen were born.

Sheikh Rashid was a successful businessman and devoted husband and father to not only his children, but the whole extended Sheikh family. Fahmida, the family matriarch, was hardy and strong, relishing life in the Kenyan bush. She and her husband were guided by principles of charity and humility, and by their faith. Sheikh Rashid was a keen pilot and on occasion Fahmida acted as his navigator, such as when they went to perform Hajj. In all areas of life, they were a cohesive team.

Members of the Sheikh family remember hunting trips and encounters with the amazing animals of the African plain – including being chased by a rhinoceros as Sheikh Rashid drove away! He loved racing cars, he loved to travel, he loved to fly, he loved food (in particular egg pudding) and, perhaps most of all, he loved children. At meals he would always say to “feed the kids first”.

Tragically, Sheikh Rashid was killed in a plane accident in 1963 at the age of 38.

1963 irrevocably changed the Sheikh family’s lives in a multitude of ways. One of these was Kenya’s first Independence Day when Jomo Kenyatta became the first Prime Minister of Kenya. While Haroon and his mother were in Pakistan, other members of the Sheikh family witnessed the fundamental change to Kenya in person. Both Rukhsana and Farouq shook hands with the new Prime Minister, unaware of how his policies to come would irrevocably shape their lives and those of their family.

Family is at the heart of the Sheikh principles – when Haroon and Farouq began CareTech in London, Fahmida was the person who typed the very first letters. College educated, she had a typing speed of sixty words per minutes and an absolute mastery of shorthand.

In 1969, Fahmida led her family to London. From a beautiful life in Nairobi came the laundrette in Potters Bar. It was a cultural shift for them all. Where once they had been driven to school, they now had to figure out London and its baffling buses and timetables. The laundrette, which would later extend to include a giftshop, charged only 10 pence for a service wash. This led to Fahmida’s great talent for packing and folding – a useful skill while travelling!

These were happy years for them all. They lived within their means and with pride. Above the laundrette was one large lounge and a bedroom with two single beds, a bunk bed and a folding bed. The family remembers it with contentment, particularly the large family gatherings every weekend where everyone would squeeze into that lounge room and Fahmida would cook for them all in one big pot. The extended family brought their shopping from the high street below and more than once brought their washing to make use of the laundrette’s facilities.

Of course, we now all know the story of what happened to the Sheikh family in the days after the laundrette. But these stories – particularly those of Sheikh Rashid and Fahmida – are essential to understanding CareTech, the COSARAF Foundation and the future.

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