De­fender African ad­ven­ture

Land Rover Monthly - - Contents -

Umoja Africa 2016 cov­ers six coun­tries and works on 12 char­ity projects and it’s all done in a De­fender

For any­one who truly loves Africa, there is only one way to travel: in a Land Rover. So, hot on the heels of the in­au­gu­ral 2012 Umoja Jour­ney – where we trav­elled from Mom­basa, Kenya, to do­nate two Land Rovers as am­bu­lances to a women’s clinic in Lubum­bashi, Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo – I ca­joled three fel­low ad­ven­tur­ers to join me on a sim­i­lar mis­sion. They were Liz Dil­lar­stone and Ni­cola Guise, both from Oundle, Northamp­ton­shire, and Colleen Cole, from Canada.

We pre­pared our­selves for ad­ven­ture and ex­cite­ment, and fin­ished the jour­ney with a re­newed sense of so­cial pur­pose, and a healthy re­spect for the virtues of a well-equipped Land Rover. Be­tween the ca­ma­raderie, mag­nif­i­cent scenery and '80s disco mu­sic, there were mo­ments of quiet re­flec­tion when the true pur­pose and mean­ing of the Umoja (which means unity in Swahili) jour­ney came into sharp re­lief.

Umoja Africa 2016 was a phys­i­cal jour­ney across six coun­tries, and an in­ter­nal jour­ney to find deeper sig­nif­i­cance in all that we do so we can live our legacy now.

On ar­rival in Kenya, I picked up the Land Rover we’d rented for the first leg of our jour­ney. Now, while many LRM read­ers would see a battered 1960s Se­ries ve­hi­cle as a dream ren­o­va­tion project, I can only con­fess dis­ap­point­ment. We were not ex­pect­ing lux­ury, but we did need re­li­able trans­port for our long drive from Nairobi up through the Rift Val­ley to Gil­gil, then two days later to the Mara and from there back to Nairobi. Some ne­go­ti­at­ing with the hire com­pany re­sulted in an up­grade of about 20 years to a mid-1990s De­fender. We were ready for busi­ness – or so we thought.

We picked up Jo­ce­lyn, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of In­ter­na­tional Needs Kenya, and headed for our first stop – the Light­house Project, which is an al­co­hol and drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gramme in Limuru that fights against drug and sub­stance abuse. They train com­mu­nity work­ers to first recog­nise chil­dren and young peo­ple strug­gling with drug ad­dic­tion and then help im­ple­ment strate­gies that re­ha­bil­i­tate and rein­te­grate them into the com­mu­nity. Here we met a young man called Sham­math, who had turned his life around with the help of this team, and is now in­tro­duc­ing oth­ers who face sim­i­lar strug­gles.

From there we en­joyed a re­lax­ing drive up the Rift Val­ley

be­fore de­cid­ing to take a short cut through the Ki­gio Con­ser­vancy to reach our des­ti­na­tion at Malewa Bush Ven­tures. We were told to ex­pect a bumpy ride that would knock 20 min­utes off our jour­ney, with a promise that we might see ze­bra, im­pala, and pos­si­bly gi­raffes. Bumpy sounded great, un­til we got rather lost, not helped by the fact that our di­rec­tions told us to fol­low the signs for Malewa un­til the last sign at which point, ig­nore it and go straight on! How do you know when you have reached the last sign? Some­how we fig­ured it out and reached our des­ti­na­tion, in­deed see­ing the promised wildlife.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing we were due to ar­rive at Gil­gil Spe­cial School by 8am for the start of assem­bly. Af­ter a down­hill jump-start, we were on the road and pulled in to the field just as the school flag was be­ing raised. It was an emo­tional mo­ment as chil­dren wel­comed us with song. The school helps over 100 once for­got­ten chil­dren to ac­cess an ed­u­ca­tion, and as well as equip­ping these vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren with skills for life, the in­ter­ac­tion with other lo­cal chil­dren en­cour­ages un­der­stand­ing and ac­cep­tance in the com­mu­nity.

Four trav­ellers en­joy lifechang­ing ex­pe­ri­ences as they drive a 20-year-old De­fender from Nairobi, Kenya to Cape Point, South Africa. David Mar­shall, of In­ter­na­tional Needs Canada re­ports… Pic­tures: David Mar­shall, Liz Dil­lar­stone, Ni­cola Guise, Colleen Cole

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