Less than 4 weeks to go until the Transaid Cycle Zambia challenge and, while my physique is not yet honed to Geraint Thomas proportions, I have been making some progress on the fitness front.
In this blog I am sharing some of the ups and downs of getting ready for the trip and will be sharing daily updates on my struggles on the event, cycling from Lusaka to Victoria Falls. I am also covering some thoughts on Transaid’s work from my perspective as Chair of the Board of Trustees.
First, training. I am sure many of you reading this will be familiar with Strava, the workout app. It allows an ‘athlete’ (their term, not mine) to track their runs, cycles and other activity, upload it and then get ‘kudos’ from other ‘athletes’. In their wisdom, the Transaid events team set up a Strava group where Challenge Zambia cyclists can share their progress and view a weekly leaderboard to see who is training the most. There are some very scary cyclists on this trip who are notching up huge distances on a weekly basis (Tony Owen of Renault, I salute you!). It has also demonstrated how susceptible I am to this new form of competition: obsessively checking the leaderboard after every ride, using my bike for errands so that I post an extra mile, and telling everyone I know that I topped the ‘elevation gained’ leaderboard for last week. How this new obsession translates to the heat and dust of Zambia remains to be seen.
It is very easy to think of this event in terms of UK based individuals giving up their time and money to voluntarily help communities in Africa. While that is an important part of the story, it is a very incomplete picture of Transaid’s work and the voluntary work within the communities Transaid supports.
At the last Transaid Board meeting, programme manager Edward O’Connor, presented the results of Transaid’s Comic Relief-funded Emergency Transport System (ETS) project in Adamawa State, Nigeria. The project has lasted for five years and during that period 18,873 pregnant women in rural communities have been transported through the scheme to health facilities. Many of these women had complications, pointing to a significant number of maternal deaths averted.
A volunteer driver proudly displays his ETS car sticker
While Transaid’s work with bicycle ambulances is well known, the project in Adamawa state is based on motorised taxi transport. Some similar ETS projects rely on paying the drivers in the form of vouchers, but this often means that when the funding stops so does the emergency transport. The Transaid approach incentivises the involvement of community taxi drivers in more sustainable ways underpinned by extensive community engagement. The final project evaluation shows that for 98% of trips, the driver asked for no payment at all, even for fuel. The drivers are motivated by a desire to support their communities and can see a real benefit in doing so. This voluntary support for the poorest women in rural communities is a sustainable solution that will continue to function even though the project has now come to an end.
Thanks again to my corporate sponsors for the challenge: my gold sponsors are logistics property experts sbh and my silver sponsors are the logistics and supply chain consultancy, Model Logic.
I am also delighted that materials handling specialists, Emkat Solutions, have come on board as my bronze shorts sponsor.
I am paying the costs of the trip myself so all the funds I raise go straight to Transaid’s work. This allows us to pioneer new approaches and technology in the areas of road safety and access to health. If you are reading this and would like to sponsor me please do so at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jogodsmarkzambia