Keynsham pair reach end of journey across continents to help Malawi charity

Published on: 04 Sep 2015

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Two Keynsham men have returned home after an epic drive that took them thousands of miles across Africa to reach the charity that inspired the trip.

Mike White and James Ellis set off on their Key2Africa challenge on March 22 with the aim of driving to Malawi, to roll up their sleeves and get involved with the projects run by the Joshua Orphan and Community Care charity.

After months on the road, camping, crossing borders and a route change that saw them ship their Land Rover down to South Africa after reports of unrest in countries that lay ahead on their journey, the pair drove north to arrive in Malawi in July.

There they headed to a rural part of Blantyre where the Joshua charity supports around 20 communities, providing health and education services.

The former Wellsway students joined other volunteers in helping to build a house for a teacher in a remote village and accompanied one of the charity’s field workers as he made his regular gruelling journey on foot to three communities to deliver the funds to the women who run feeding centres set up by the charity to ensure local children have at least one nutritious meal a day.

The pair, who first got involved with the charity as members of 1st Keynsham Scouts, said they hope money they have raised as part of their Key2Africa challenge can go towards purchasing motorbikes to make this journey easier for the workers.

Mike and James were also put to work at one of the feeding centres, preparing and serving up the food and feeding some of the youngest visitors, before joining in games and letting the youngsters sit in their well-travelled Land Rover.

Mike said: “What we have found with all the kids in every community, is they love to play. The smaller ones love to be picked up and the slightly older ones just want you to kick a ball around with them, or constant high fives and fist pumps, they love the attention.”

There were also long days spent helping a retired British nurse, Jean, run the health clinics set up by the charity to provide vital services that would otherwise be out of reach to many, with the nearest hospital an expensive 15-mile journey away.

With poor hygiene, the pair said they saw many cases of ringworm, infected cuts from the rocky terrain and rashes caused by the laundry soap many people used to wash with because they couldn’t afford soap for their skin.

Other patients were taken to hospital for treatment, while Jean also visited people’s homes, including a young girl whose serious burns would have otherwise gone untreated.

The pair’s visit also attracted the interest of the media in Malawi, with a local newspaper, TV news team and radio station interviewing them about their journey and the work they were carrying out with the charity.

Mike added: “As Joshua was what our trip was centred around it was a great experience and a privilege to see the impact they are having on people’s lives every day.”

For more about the Key2Africa journey, visit www.key2africa.org.uk or find them on Facebook, and for more about the Joshua Orphan and Community Care charity, visit joshuainmalawi.org.uk.

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