Cycling across Africa for street children

CANDICE BRADFIELD

A COUPLE cycling from London to Cape Town to raise money for street children, stayed over in Port Alfred last week after visiting 29 countries in 11 ½ months.

So far Craig Pollard and Loretta White have completed about 16 000km with no support vehicle and spending half of their trip camping wherever they could, including a national game reserve.

Pollard and White were living and working in Oxford before they decided to take this immense trip. They started their own charity called Cycle Africa and are also linked to four main charity partners. They took the time to visit charities in the various countries, to meet the kids and try and raise awareness of the hardships they face.

ON THEIR WAY: Loretta White and Craig Pollard have cycled 16 000km through Europe and Africa raising funds for street children and visiting charities along the way. They passed through Port Alfred last week and their next stop was Port Elizabeth Picture: CANDICE BRADFIELD

“We decided, if we were going to do 17 000km, we would do it for a reason,” said Pollard.

“It was Craig’s idea, and it took him a few years to convince me to do it,” said White.

Both she and Pollard have an interest in the welfare of children. White is a child psychologist and Pollard has worked as a fundraiser for various African and UK charities for eight years. He currently heads the fundraising and alumni relations at the school of oriental and African studies (SOAS) at the University of London.

Pollard said he had lived and travelled in Africa before.

They left London on August 7 last year with four others. While they are active and enjoy hiking and running, neither Pollard or White were cyclists. The first time they packed their bikes with all they needed to take was the day they started.

“Loretta’s bike and luggage weigh more than she does,” joked Pollard.

They set off across Europe visiting France, Belgium, Germany, and following the Danube River they travelled through Turkey into Jordan in the Middle East before entering Egypt in Africa.

One couple only made it as far as Cairo before deciding to return home. The other two stuck with them the whole way have gone on ahead to Cape Town.

From Egypt they stuck mainly to the east coast of Africa, travelling down into Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya as well as Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, among others.

They have had an overwhelming response from people on the road who have been very kind and generous. They have been allow to camp wherever they need to and have been offered tea or fresh milk from the locals.

“Africa is not a scary continent,” said Pollard.

They found Sudan very hospitable and the people their very respectful, sharing big bowls of food with them.

They have had no problems and only experienced petty crime such as a cap being stolen. They have not had trouble at any of the borders either, and only needed police escorts in Egypt and North Kenya.

White said she has found South Africans to be the friendliest people on their journey. Every time they felt a bit down, someone would stop and give them encouragement.

So far they have raised R360 000 for their various charities. Through visiting these charities they have met hundreds of street children who are perceived as a nuisance and are there through no fault of their own.

“They have been driven from home because there were no opportunities, abuse or poverty. They steal and beg to survive,” said Pollard.

From Port Alfred they headed for Port Elizabeth and then on to the Garden Route.

They plan to be in Cape Town on August 7 where they will attend a welcoming event organised by Coaching for Hope.

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