A UK-based aid worker will take on soaring temperatures and a gruelling 1,600-kilometres cycle ride to raise money for the Gibraltar-based charity Action4Schools to build a water well in Sierra Leone.
Mark Hawkins, 54, will set off from the La Línea side of the frontier today with his partner Sharron Edgecomb.
They will cycle across Spain up to Madrid and then head back down to Gibraltar in just under two weeks.
This year, the cycle ride will be in Spain and will be in preparation for a cycle ride from London to Gibraltar in aid of Action4Schools next year.
Mr Hawkins is a keen cyclist and chooses this time of the year as it means there is a small chance of being stranded in a thunderstorm.
Mr Hawkin’s fundraising target is £2,500, which will fund one water well at a school in Sierra Leone. The hotel, flights and any extra expenses will all be paid for himself.
Action4Schools chairman Jimmy Bruzon explained that the charity is working towards building 50 water wells in Sierra Leone, which will bring clean drinking water to 20,000 children.
They met in Gibraltar a few years ago, when Mr Bruzon shared his experiences of working in Sierra Leone.
Mr Hawkins said: “I heard about the charity work being done in Sierra Leone, and there’s a personal link because I was part of the response team that was in Sierra Leone during the Ebola response.”
“I know the people I’ve worked with, and I know the challenges they are facing, and how this project cropped up in schools.”
Mr Hawkins explained how in many countries in the developing world, it comes down to the children to go and fetch water for their family homes.
This often takes up a full day and it means that these children are unable to go to school.
He added: “Being a small charity, Action4Schools is run on volunteers and that means a lot of money gets channelled to the causes they support.”
“Sometimes the small charities are more efficient and they give me the stories I can actually give to the donors which helps bring money to the cause.”
“And the well is actually a really good story to tell.”
Mr Hawkins compared this to the work he does for Save the Children in the UK, saying the larger NGO’s do great things on a larger scale, but sometimes the small charities are more efficient and this is a “great solution”.
As a Global Humanitarian Technology Manager for Save the Children, Mr Hawkins, is part of the emergency response team that works to provide communications and connectivity if there’s a disaster somewhere.
Having worked in the charity sector for nearly 20 years, Mr Hawkins said money raised for a larger institution gets “lost in the melting point”, whereas in this case there is a “tangible outcome”.
For his part, Mr Bruzon said: “It is very humbling to know that someone like Mark who has been working in the aid sector for so many years and in such large and important organisations such as Save the Children has chosen to support our charity with this huge 1000 miles cycle challenge.”
“The funds raised will go towards our water well projects. We are keen to reach the milestone of 50 water wells which would mean bringing safe, clean water to over 20,000 children.”
“The lack of water is a massive problem in Sierra Leone with over half the population not having access to clean water.”
“The lack of water in schools means that children have to spend a lot of time fetching water from faraway and often dirty streams which means they lose out on vital school time and run the risk of infections and they face other dangers such as traffic or wildlife.”
To follow Mr Hawkins and Ms Edgecomb’s progress as they set out on their cycle challenge, visit their blog on www.atlantis-sailing.org.uk.
To help Mr Hawkins raise money for Action4Schools, visit his fundraising page on www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mark-hawkins-2018.