In August I’ll be doing this…

June 28 2011

Walking many kilometres down the Thames in aid of LearnAsOne… so please help out and sponsor me.

Here’s how I’ve described it over there.

In 2009 I visited a school in southern Zambia with the charity LearnAsOne. It’s a pretty astounding place, where an incredibly poor community is trying to make itself better off by building a school.

One of the most remarkable children I met was Saviour. That’s her in the bright green cardie on the left. Both her parents died when she was a baby. She’s not sure how old she is – somewhere between eight and eleven – and she lives with her Uncle and Aunt and their children in a tiny one room hut in Simakakata.

Every day, Saviour walks 7km to and from school. One day, two years ago, I walked it with her. We started at 7am. It took two hours to go one way, and by the time we arrived it was hot and I was parched. Saviour, used to the walk and going full days without water was ready to begin her day proper. I wanted to go back to bed.

This January I went back to Simakakata. The school has changed beyond all recognition thanks to help from LearnAsOne and other charities, like Care International. But they still have a lot of work to do.

When I met Saviour again, she was a changed girl. The first time I met her, she was quiet, shy, and barely spoke to adults. This time she was lively, outgoing, brilliantly funny and – best of all – top of her class in almost every subject.

If it weren’t for the school, I’m convinced her destiny would have been little more than to continue the cycle of poverty that has trapped Simakakata for decades. Now, I’m sure she’ll go on to high school, and will have a varied and exciting career and life ahead of her.

I can’t believe the amount of effort it takes just for Saviour to get to class on time, but in the blazing sun or driving rains, she gets there every day. And I’m glad of it.

In order to help Saviour and all of her friends at Simakakata, I’m going to be putting myself in her shoes again. I’m taking part in the LearnAsOne Founder’s challenge. On the 13th August, myself and a group of others will walk the same distance Saviour covers in a week – 46km – in one day, and we’d like you to sponsor us.

We may be walking along the Thames, instead of through the bush. But I hope you can appreciate the sentiment, and help me to make sure that however hard it is for Saviour to get to school, there’s a school for her to go to.

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