MGC 1999 Leaver

Malvern Alumnae 100 Kiko Matthews

My world was turned on its head when I developed Cushings disease, a rare and life-threatening condition, in my late 20s. I’d always been motivated by challenge and adventure and in narrowly avoiding death, I got incredibly clear on how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I wanted to live a life of purpose. Doing things that helped people and the planet, and challenging myself as I did.

I went part-time in my day job as a Science teacher in a high school, qualified as a paddleboard instructor, set up my own business, and then a charity. In 2016 Charlie Pitcher, then Atlantic world record holder for the men’s solo row, suggested I go for the women’s record. In 2018, I set a new record for the fastest woman to row across the Atlantic. Now I have set up an initiative called Kik Plastic which will see me cycling 6700 kilometres around the UK’s coast - and organising local beach cleans - to raise awareness of the problem of single use plastic, and to engage communities to help tackle it.

When I was at school, the focus from all around was on grades and university and being part of extra-curricular clubs, sports etc. But there was less emphasis on alternative ways. To be fair, I’m glad I got good results and a degree, as it has subsequently set me up in life for 'success'. But what is success to me? It's living a fulfilled and honest life; being happy; knowing that I connect with people around me; belonging to a community, and knowing that I am doing good for those around me.

There's not a worry of failure, or doing the 'wrong thing'. Making money is not my success - in fact, I think it can hinder us really developing and being the best you. Why row across an ocean if you have 'everything to lose’? I had only something to gain.

What does success look like?

Living the best you, not being fearful, being kind and pushing boundaries. That's success.

What’s your best piece of advice?

Don't be afraid of what people think or what you think people think. Don't be afraid of it not going to plan, or failure; ask for help and advice but allow yourself to make decisions and choices. Don't fear the unknown for that is where the success lies.

  • Alumnae100
  • OGA