There is an incredibly compelling story behind Gandys and the reason the brothers Rob & Paul have chosen the path of Gandys and Orphans for Orphans.
Rob and Paul’s parents - Kevin and Sandra Forkan - were compassionate, adventurous, generous people. As keen travellers themselves, they wanted to raise their children with a deep understanding of the world we live in. In order to let their children experience other cultures and see what life was like for children in other countries, Kevin and Sandra came up with a plan for their family to travel the world together. In 2001, they took their children out of the traditional education system in England and enrolled their children in the University of Life.
Kevin and Sandra had no exact plans of where they would go or the duration in each place. The whole family were going to work on humanitarian projects predominantly in India and parts of the Sub Continent. Friends and other family members thought they were joking, but the Forkans began making preparations. Every family member packed a backpack, and did away with the remaining possessions that wouldn’t fit in. Kevin and Sandra organized meetings with charities in the countries they were going to. Finally, they sold the family home that they had lived in for 20 years. They swapped their normal, comfortable life in Croydon, South London for the adventure of a lifetime.
First stop: India. When they embarked on their journey, Rob was 13, Paul was 11, Mattie was 9 and Rosie was just 5 years old. After they had arrived, the family quickly settled into their new lifestyle in India and began to soak up the country’s rich, vibrant culture. Kevin and Sandra regularly approached local charities and the entire family did lots of voluntary work, everything from handing out food and medicine to organising sports days in an orphanage. The best part for the Forkan children was getting to play with the local kids like they were part of the family.
After a year in India, the family said goodbye to the new friends they had made and bid farewell to the first country of their journey. Despite being sad to leave the communities they had become a part of they were also excited about the next destination, Sri Lanka. Little did they know that this trip was going to change their lives forever.
They spent Christmas in a little fishing town called Weligama, where they were planning on staying for a few days before continuing their journey. On Boxing Day morning the 2004 tsunami hit the coastline. The whole family were woken by screams and huge waves tearing through their hotel rooms. The parents struggled against the mass of water to put their two youngest children up onto the roof of the building. Meanwhile, Rob managed to climb up the building and grab a metal bar. He held onto it for dear life, clutching Paul with his other arm. Tragically, that morning would be the last time they saw their parents.
The children were devastated by the loss of their parents. On top of this, they had lost their passports and money during the disaster and had to get back to the national airport that was 200km away. But they didn’t give up, and used all of the skills they had learned whilst travelling to get through all the challenges they encountered. Battered, distraught and weary, they arrived back in London, without any idea of what they were going to do next.
Fortunately the Forkan children had support from family and friends, unlike so many of the orphans they had met on their travels. Rob and Paul finished their education, got jobs in London and saved up enough money to continue the journey that their parents had started. They put their flip flops back on, and spent several years roaming the globe. They explored many countries including Laos, Bali, Fiji, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, America, New Zealand and of course back to their favourite place, India.
Rob and Paul were determined to try to find a positive end to the tragedy they experienced in 2004. They wanted to do something that would honour the spirit of their parents that would give themselves peace of mind in the process.
They came up with the goal of helping people in the developing countries they had visited. Specifically, they wanted to focus on children less fortunate than themselves, like the ones they had played with when they were younger.
One morning at a festival with some friends, Rob woke up he had “a mouth like Gandhi’s Flip Flop.” And just like that, an unusual source of inspiration became the foundation of a new, funky company!
Rob and Paul decided to create a brand that represented the values their parents had instilled in them. Having spent years travelling the world in flip flops, a flip flop company seemed like a great way to build something they really believed in. The brothers decided that they would use a percentage of the profits from Gandys flip flops to build orphanages in honour of their parents. The mission of Orphans for Orphans was born.