I’ve chosen a charity

So, at long last I have decided on a charity to support during the trip. I wanted to choose a charity based on a number of personal preferences, namely that it should support a – what I think to be – an under-represented area of sustainable development in the third world, be a smaller charity so that any money and awareness I can raise will make a difference, and be relevant to the parts of the world I’ll be cycling through. Although it wasn’t possible to find a charity that fit all these fully, I have found one that I think to be very important, and only compromising on the final preference.

The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) is a charity dedicated to improving the education of girls in Africa. In Africa especially, girls have the poorest access to education, but not because of any prejudice against educating girls, but because of poverty. In a continent where most families struggle to pay for education for even one child, given the choice, most families will choose to educate their son, rather than daughter. However, female education can help so much in the fight to eradicate poverty. An educated women is far less likely to contract HIV/AIDS, can manage a families finances, and can become the next generation of social and business entrepreneurs.

Ann Cotton OBE started the charity in 1993 by fundraising enough money to send 32 girls in Zimbabwe to school. By 2003, CAMFED had been named International Aid and Development Charity of the Year, and in 2005 with an income of over £2m their educational programmes in Africa supported 246,525 children. CAMFED supports a long term improvement in a girls education, making a minimum of a five year financial commitment to support them through education and young adulthood. The cost of making a real difference is not high, just £6 a month or £72 a year will support a girl in education, but will make a lifetime of difference to her.

In time I will have a sponsorship page online where you will be able to pledge or donate, and please give generously. It isn’t much to ask for £6 a month – and the way I think of it, every two weeks just have one less pint at the pub (at London prices anyway).

Charities?

While I’m still waiting for more maps from Stanfords I’m getting on with planning other aspects of the trip. Ever since I decided I am definitely going ahead, I’ve been deliberating over whether to cycle in aid of a charity. Now, not to do it in aid of a charity seems selfish, but before you think that of me, let me try and explain my feelings about the subject either way.

On the one hand, I’ve always thought of this trip as being a journey of personal discovery, of me, out there on my own, fulfilling a dream. Overcoming the seemingly impossible. If I was to do it in aid of a charity, it would add the pressure of living up to the expectations of the charity and donators, and would mean if I were to fail I wouldn’t only be letting myself down, but also the charity, its cause, and anyone donating money as sponsorship of the trip.

But on the other hand, a trip like this is ideal for raising donations to a charity. And there are so many charities that could benefit, if I were to do it for a charity, which one would I choose? A big worldwide charity that is relevant to the majority of places I’m going, or a smaller charity that maybe needs more help fundraising, but is much less relevant to where I’ll be going for most of my trip.

I’ve come down on the side of doing it in aid of a charity, but I still have to decide on which one. I’ve got a few ideas, but any suggestions are welcome.

Starting out…

So, I’ve made the decision to cycle around the world on a Brompton. But why?

A long, world cycle trip, is a seemingly unattainable dream I’ve had for a few years since I started reading travel biographies in Ottakars bookshop in Carlisle, and happened to stumble upon Anne Mustoe‘s “A Bike Ride”. Since then I’ve also looked on with great envy and interest as others, like Nic and Sedef, the “Nuts on Bents,” have completed similar journeys. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago and the realisation of where various paths in my life are going (or not going as the case may be), and a few specific other events, that the impossible dream suddenly looked very possible indeed with a bit of planning.

In June of this year I graduated with an upper-second class honours degree in Human Geography and Third World Studies, a degree that is very interesting and intellectually stimulating and which I have enjoyed immensely, but one that opens very few employment paths, and none that I am particularly interested in. So I got a job for a temp agency earning decent enough money on a year contract. At the same time I moved into a new shared house and signed a year contract. While moving I was appalled at how many possessions I had accumulated over the past three years of my degree, to the point that I ended up needing to rent a van to move all of my “stuff”! This came as a big shock. Although I happily admit I like the comforts of life, I’d never realised, until the clear light of having to move them all across London, quite how many items I’ve accumulated. I didn’t like thinking of myself as someone that reliant on the material things in life, and I wanted to change my ways.

A few weeks later it was time for the London Bikeathon – 26 miles on a bike from Royal Hospital Chelsea, through central London, to Thames Barrier park and back again. I participate as much for the enjoyable atmosphere as for the charity cause, and again this year I cycled the extra distance between my house and the start/end point, making for a total of 45 miles cycled that day. Normally I would do such an event on my older bike, a Trek hybrid that I have put thin road tyres on, which conventional thinking says is much more suitable for a longer ride. But it was stolen from my brothers flat just weeks earlier leaving me with no choice but to participate riding my new Brompton, an S6L in deep blue (James says it’s as blue as my “Tory soul”). I was expecting to be much more tired than normal after that distance on a folding, but I wasn’t. In fact I felt fine, as if I could go on cycling the same distance again.

I realised then that with a trailer for luggage it was perfect for touring, especially since its fold-ability meant any uncyclable parts became much easier (a flight over Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan for example). Then I looked in my calendar. I have a dentist appointment in September and my graduation ceremony in December, and literally nothing else. So the factors coming together are: my only long term commitments both ending simultaneously a year from now; a want to get away from my material lifestyle; for the first time the ability to earn and save enough money; and the realisation that I could complete it on my Brompton.

So I’ve set a date approximately a year in the future, Sunday the 27th July 2008, and started planning.