In 2008, I was privileged to be able to travel to the tiny southern African state of Swaziland to explore and photograph the wonderful natural environment and the country’s people. It was an unforgettable experience and one which, by a chance meeting, changed many of my perceptions about Africa.
I encountered Musa, a man then in his late 20s, on a dusty, country road, deep in the Drakensberg mountains. He emerged from the small farm steading he shared with three generations of his family, and we soon struck up a long conversation, during which he told me about his life, the struggle he and his family had with the effects of HIV and Aids and how economic policies of the First World were directly affecting his life and land. I was immediately struck not only by his insightfulness and intelligence, but also his determination to make life better for himself and those around him. He was, and still is, an inspiration to me.
I resolved from that moment to do everything in my limited powers to assist him. Over the following two years, myself, my family and a group of friends helped him attend college part-time to gain qualifications in accountancy. By improving his skills and continuing his education, he would increase his chances of gaining better employment and therefore be able to support his extended family, many of whom were elderly, infirm or ill.
Over the last four years, my principal method of raising money for Musa and his family has been through my participation in the annual Hoylake 10k race, staged in my home town. Through the support of many friends and strangers, I have run and raised over £3000. This money is divided in two: half goes to Musa, to pay for everyday essentials, repairs to his home, or to fund his continuing education. The other half goes to an equally worthwhile cause: the Wednesday Special Needs Club, based at the Hoylake Community Centre (registered charity no. 1015141). They use the money donated to improve facilities for disabled people of all ages who come to use their superb Sensory Garden. I am proud to assist them.
In addition to the money raised through running, my family makes a personal contribution to assist Musa, thereby guaranteeing that the support reaches around £1000 annually. I know from my communications with Musa, that he and his family are deeply grateful for all the help they receive.
So how does my Hoylake 10k fundraising work? Simple: if you wish to support me, you make a guess (or guesses!) as to what my race finishing time will be in minutes and seconds (ie 48:23). The guess which is the nearest inside my official finishing time receives a 20″ x 16″ signed and mounted one-off print of the image displayed at the top of this page. Each year I select one of my photographs to give away as a prize. This year’s image is of two lone figures surrounded by a sunset on Scotland’s west coast. It speaks of the scale and power of nature and how tiny we are as humans in comparison. And yet, we are can make as powerful a contribution to the world as nature itself.
To win the photograph you can guess as many times as you want – each guess costs £5. You can make payments and guesses through Paypal at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email me your guesses to: email@example.com – and I’ll send you my details for payment via cheque or bank transfer. It’s that easy! Remember you can guess as many times as you like for £5 per go.
To give you a clue about this year’s finishing time – I am looking at running the race somewhere between 45-55 minutes. The race takes place on Sunday, 15th September, at 11am.
For the last five years I have made this annual appeal. And each year, I am overwhelmed by the response. I hope that you will be able to support me in 2013 and help me raise money and awareness for these two very deserving and worthwhile causes. Many thanks!