Head of Development and Fundraising for Fields of Life GB, Debbie Cameron, returned from yet another demanding challenge last week – a trek across the Sahara. Her latest mission was in aid of raising money and awareness for the charity’s #WellGood campaign, committed to drilling fresh water bore-hole wells in Uganda.
The ‘Sahara Warriors’, a group of ten fundraisers from across the country piloted by Debbie and Family Business Place, walked just short of 100km across the Sahara desert; tackling the 40-degree heat, sandstorms and lack of water. With a team that consisted of the team leader, two camel herders and a cook, the Sahara Warriors managed to complete their trek in just six long days.
Debbie, an ex-Branch Manager of the Institute of Directors, is based at Kent Science Park in her latest position with the charity. She describes the trek, looking back on what was some of the toughest conditions she has faced. She said: “We had all done plenty of training in preparation for the trek but nothing can prepare you for the heat you experience in the Sahara and there is nowhere to get away from the sun. Everything we needed for our trek we had to carry including all of our food and water. We all had blisters on blisters, making some days exceptionally tough. The problem was you didn’t know what you would be walking on; the surface could be hard and cracking one minute, the next your fleet were slipping and sinking”.
There were perks to the trip too, Debbie remembers. “We slept under the stars every night and the sky was like nothing you have ever seen before. It was absolutely beautiful. Each day we walked, there was something new that would take your breath away; an oasis in the middle of the desert, the sheer scale of sand dunes or the sunrise and sunset every day. The traditional cuisine that the cook prepared on open fires was lovely too, something that I wasn’t expecting in the middle of the desert!”
Last year, Debbie climbed Mount Elgon in Africa for the same charity. She explained the importance of her grueling challenges and how the money makes a difference in Africa: “The work that Fields of Life undertakes is essential in post-conflict Africa. We want to create a sustainable future for villages and a positive step towards this is providing clean, safe water to hundreds of people living in remote communities.
“It’s estimated that in one day, 152million hours of women and girls’ time is consumed by collecting water, and every 20 second a child dies from a waterborne disease; which is unbelievably staggering. We have to remember putting ourselves through the pain of the Sahara trek is nothing compared to what these people go through every single day of their lives. It all seems so worthwhile when you think of it like that. To raise in excess of £23,000 is an outstanding effort and we want to thank everybody who contributed.”
Fields of Life are currently in the process of launching a new campaign worldwide named ‘I AM GIRL’. The campaign is targeted at girls of all ages, helping to gain a sense of empowerment, providing them with support to enable them to stay in school and let them know they do have choices. Unfortunately, domestic violence is extremely common in the developing world. Girls being abducted when walking to get water are also a familiar occurrence. Resulting in 85% of girls not being able to complete secondary school education. I AM GIRL plans to embark on a re-evaluation of the education system: teaching children about sexual health and hygiene, having safe toilets and washrooms where young girls can feel comfortable taking care of themselves. So far, Fields of Life have piloted a scheme with an investment in 2,000 AFRIpads and 4,000 sets of underwear for girls in post-conflict Africa. Early results show a marked improvement in attendance. However, there are bigger plans for the campaign on the horizon.
James Speck, Site Director at Kent Science Park spoke about the work Fields of Life are involved with in Africa. He said: “Since Debbie launched the GB office of Fields of Life at Kent Science Park earlier this year, she has been going from strength to strength, already achieving a tremendous portfolio of challenges and support. Raising £23,000 with a team trekking across the Sahara has already saved lives but it is important that local business continue to support her. So much can be achieved by donating; just £17 a month will sponsor a child in primary education and £24 a month will sponsor a child in secondary education, including boarding costs. We wish Debbie the best of luck in her next adventure!”