Alumni Ana-Maria Valinho and Nádia Correia, both Diploma in Tropical Nursing 2012, recently cycled 2,198 kilometres (1,366 miles) from London to Lisbon to raise funds for the British non-governmental organisation Foundation Human Nature. Ana-Maria reflects on their autumn 2014 journey below, which raised £6,000 towards supporting the NGO’s clinic in Ashanti, Ghana.
By the time we had to depart, the last feeling we had was readiness. A project that sounded ambitious to everyone, including us. A sporting challenge made by amateurs with a deep motivation in mind. A motivation built also in the body after four months preparation. This was Ride for Ashanti, our long distance bike ride. London to Paris wasn’t seducing enough, as if we already knew this project was due greater horizons, greater funding. “If we are going to cycle, let’s go home.” So from London to Lisbon we rode.
Ashanti is the original name of a central large region in Ghana, also one of the poorest and most isolated. We ended up there after being recruited by the NGO Foundation Human Nature (FHN) in the summer of 2013, making use of our Diploma in Tropical Nursing at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Three months as Nurses, teamed up with a Doctor, volunteering for the progress of a clinic. An unforgettable experience of how resource less, and still cheerful, people can be; finally the consciousness of the educational challenges and its repercussions in communication and health of developing populations; finally the closeness with changes in details which aren’t really that small… they are how change is made.
What else better than using our own two hands? And legs? We set of from London on Tuesday 16th September, with Portuguese TV coverage – we couldn’t believe it. Late that night we were half way through to Portsmouth – and there it was, we were actually riding away to fundraise! The journey was so full. Twenty-five days felt like fifty, 2,200 kilometres felt like… like 2,200 kilometres! Uphills felt like downhills, but only on the last week really!
Half the nights we got people through www.warmshowers.org to welcome us in their homes – and indeed we were welcome. Free outsiders meet strangers who also cycle and happen to have floor, a couch, even a room available for strangers – an incredible trust chain. With those people and with many others we met on the way, even to just ask for directions, debates blossomed – why are we doing this? Is it worth it? Blissfully, we had no doubts. Debating ideas with people was fundamental though; to inspire the ones who believe in individual interventions towards change – a change not necessarily local but global… and to somehow disturb the intrigued minds who considered our efforts hopeless.
Memory flashes of the work in Ghana intertwined with the astonishing sights we were driven to by our on-the-go crafted routes. Diving our muscles in the endless green of England, in the cycle paths of France, in the pine and sea perfumed French coast, in the desert of Spain and finally, in the pine woods and good foods of our Portugal. Frustrated by not seeing the donations rising, even with daily posts about the adventures and providing information about FHN’s project in Ghana, we progressively came to realize how so many people were following it, hitting ‘like’ on Facebook, talking about it, spreading piggybanks in establishments and some family and friends actually giving flyers themselves! On top of it all, we had our family and friends supporting the dream live – a mother, a sister-in-law, brothers, friends – could it get better?
Suddenly Nurses who became cyclists, out of their hospitals to the world, concluded their project which now lives as unforgettable. The money raised will be used to pay for new (pricy) batteries for the existing solar panels of the clinic, and for academic training of the staff. Still trying to get solar panel companies to contribute! Let us know if you have ideas.
The target was £3,500 – can you believe we have now almost raised £6,000? And still striving for more!
If you cycle far, choose fundraising!
Ana-Maria Valinho (on behalf of my mate Nádia Correia)
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