Often you’ll hear people question why we help Africans, but if you ever had the chance to visit RIPPLE Africa in Malawi you’d have the answer. Volunteering with RIPPLE Africa turned out not only to be a life-changing experience, but it allowed ordinary people to be part of something extraordinary. RIPPLE Africa isn’t just a charity doing work in Africa, it’s a team, a family.
For 14 years the charity has been making great strides to achieve remarkable results from educating thousands through pre-school up to university, building over 40,000 fuel-efficient cookstoves to planting five million trees – and its fish conservation project has been described as ‘magic’ by the Malawian Fisheries Department.
And for volunteers, whether you spend a few hours or a few months in the company of the Malawian team, you see the real stars of the operation. Dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic are just three words to describe them. It’s clear they’re all working to one common goal: improving their country. And that’s what RIPPLE Africa does - it empowers locals to find their own solutions to improve education and healthcare and to conserve the environment.
So why are we cycling almost 1,000 miles?
Volunteering is like being in a Big Brother house; complete strangers are thrown together and have to learn how to live, work, eat and sleep alongside each other. In situations like that, you make friends but what’s special is that you make life-long friends.
One night near the end of my volunteer placement, I was talking to my new-found friend Rebecca (Davies). We were talking about our dreams and aspirations. We’ve both fallen in love with Africa and dreamt about an adventure travelling across the continent on a bicycle. As we talked, the dream turned into a reality but we realised that cycling across Africa is quite ambitious and that we ought to test our abilities with a ‘smaller’ challenge.
“Let’s cycle Land’s End to John o’ Groats,” we said. And the idea was born.
Fast forward nine months and I return to Malawi for my second work trip and meet Natasha Mladek and Ilka Hof. Both are volunteer teachers – and everything you'd look for in a volunteer - dedicated, respectful, enthusiastic and, most importantly, fun! They joined the morning training sessions, up at 4.30am to set out on a 50km cycle ride. Then one morning RIPPLE Africa’s founder, Geoff Furber, decided he’d give in to the nagging and get on a bicycle. Anyone who knows Geoff will know that he doesn’t like cycling, and we think he only came along to prove to us (young) women that he could do it. He did – but he came in last.
Whilst on this cycle ride, we jokingly invited Geoff to join us on our LEJOG challenge. Quick to respond, he said, “If you raise £50,000 for RIPPLE Africa then I’ll do it.”
I’m not one to ignore a comment like that so, after checking and double checking that he was serious, we’re embarking on this adventure - the (Tremendously-Terrible) RIPPLE Rockets. Now we’ve no idea if we can actually achieve this incredible amount of money but we’re going to give it our best shot, especially as it’s to support the brilliant work taking place in Malawi.
For the two-week adventure, Natasha, Ilka, Rebecca, Geoff and I will be putting our legs (and bums) through unimaginable pain – but one thing we’re guaranteed is that there’ll be lots of laughs along the way too.
We’re being joined by other former volunteers, namely Kieran McCabe, plus friends and family too who want to show their support, but we’re not asking for you to don the ever-so-attractive Lycra to show your support. We’d love you to be part of this incredible adventure - whether you’re able to host a fundraiser or make a donation, whatever you’re able to spare will be gratefully received.
The RIPPLE Rockets set off from Land’s End on 19th April 2017 and (hope) to arrive at John o’ Groats on 3rd May 2017. We’ll let you know the full route and progress so if you want to come out for a cycle (to provide some much needed encouragement), you can!
In the meantime, a huge thank you from us all!