As most of you know, I went on a life-changing trip to Sierra Leone with Street Child last year. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the trip, but I certainly didn’t expect to fall in love with the country and its people. For those of you who may not have been following me at the time, Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries, having been brought to its knees by a savage civil war and then devastated again when it became the epicentre of ebola. It was by far the most emotional trip I have been on. My mind was constantly in turmoil processing the levels of poverty I was seeing, while my heart grew each day larger with the love I was experiencing.

The people of Sierra Leone are some of the kindest I have ever come across. They had little to give other than their time and friendship, and they gave that generously. I met countless inspiring men and women building a better future for their communities, taking progress into their own hands and building businesses empowering others to do the same. Some of these are focused on driving tourism, while others are serving their communities. But most important of all is the role that education plays in all of this.

The power of education

A young kid is at the blackboard using a long stick to spell out a word

We take education for granted, but it is a luxury for many. Yet education is critical for progress, and is one of the fundamental necessities to eradicate poverty. Access to education is linked to fewer teenage pregnancies, less child fatalities, fewer child marriages, better health, improved care for animals, more nutritious diets, improved agriculture, and overall better prosperity for the entire community.

Education is the key that unlocks everything, and that is why I am fully committed to supporting Street Child, a charity that fundraises for local charities working across the most challenging countries in the world. From the camps in Uganda to the war in Ukraine, Street Child is empowering local charities to support and protect the most vulnerable children. And right now, their emergency funds are focused on helping the children affected by the Syrian/Turkish earthquake.

The Sierra Leone Marathon

Me standing with my arms outstretched by the Sierra Leone Marathon finish line

Street Childs’ biggest fundraising event is the Sierra Leone Marathon. Every year 100 international runners join hundreds of local runners on the streets of Makeni to run in extreme heat and humidity to raise funds to help provide children with a future through education. I never thought I would be able to complete a marathon, but after seeing the amazing work that Street Child do, and after meeting many of its beneficiaries, the marathon was actually the easiest part of my trip. As kids came out to run alongside me, and grannies handed me coconuts, I forgot about the pain in my legs and focused instead on the great that would be done with the money I had raised.

And wanting to support Street Child in the same way again, I signed up to repeat the marathon this year. My training was going to plan (although my diet wasn’t). However, I have found it harder to ask for donations. Everyone was so generous last year that I feel guilty asking all over again, especially when some may think the challenge is no longer enough.

So when I heard that Street Child was running a pilot 100 km bike ride in Sierra Leone, I felt this was my opportunity to add an extra level of complexity to my challenge! With the bike ride three months away, and only having sat on my bike a handful of times in the last decade, I felt this would surely be the challenge everyone could get behind. After all, 100 km on a bike that isn’t yours (will it even have a seat?!), in 36-degree heat and 90% humidity, sounds horrendous to me.

Upping my game!

A smiling me cycling along on a hot summers day

But when I told my friends about it, everyone replied with: “Oh, that’s not so bad, better than a marathon!”. I beg to differ, but, not wanting to ask people for money for a challenge they didn’t feel warranted it, I have signed up for something more extreme! Over the Easter weekend, I will be cycling 500 km from my home in the Cotswolds to Breda in the Netherlands. That is 123 km a day over four days. So instead of having three months to get fit enough to do 1 100 km bike ride, I am now doing four back-to-back, 123-kilometre bike rides with only two months of training. Nobody can tell me that isn’t enough of a challenge!! As I type this, the maximum distance I have done to date is 40 km!

A couple of my colleagues, alongside the company I work for, Weatherbeeta, have pledged £500 in donations to Street Child if I complete the ride. With that kind of donation on the line, there is no way I can not give it my best. Even if I have to crawl to Breda after my backside has become too sore to sit on a saddle, I will make it. Street Child’s mission means too much to me not to.

Can I make 500KM?

My question to you though… how much are you willing to pledge to help motivate me on this ridiculous 500 km cycle ride to Breda?

Please donate as generously as you can for the children in this world that don’t have the luxury of an education. They all deserve a brighter future!

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