As Yorkshire folk, we often talk about how fortunate we are to live in ‘God’s own county’ – the most beautiful part of England for certain.
Although there are many people who are less well off than the average, generally we get by and we take for granted our much-valued public services. We may moan occasionally but Yorkshire stoicism sees us through most of the bad times.
Imagine, though, what life would be like if we couldn’t rely on the health service or an emergency service wasn’t there for us. Imagine not knowing whether your baby would survive what we would regard as a minor infection because there was no doctor nearby and no clean water coming through the tap in your kitchen – and, indeed, if there wasn’t even a tap. Food was scarce and children hard to feed.
That’s what Leeds residents Ashley and Sara Peatfield discovered whilst on holiday in Kenya a few years ago. Out of their determination to help the people they saw suffering from lack of basic amenities, the Funzi and Bodo Trust was created.
When I met with Ashley again after a gap of many years, he told me about this amazing charity and its life-saving work. The charitable Trust is named after two villages – Funzi and Bodo – which are just to the south of Mombassa on the Kenyan coast and where the population lacked even the most basic public services in one of the poorest parts of the country.
The charity’s work is so effective that it has transformed the lives of the inhabitants of the two villages and every penny raised by Ashley and Sara goes towards the projects there. The Trust receives generous sponsorship from many individuals in Yorkshire and further afield as well as the support of two local businesses – TSA and Smart Recycling.
Ashley had heard about my annual charity bike rides, so late last year he asked me whether I would raise funds for Funzi and Bodo on my 2017 ride and I happily agreed. TSA and Smart Recycling agreed to sponsor my cycling jersey which has already raised more than £1,000 towards the £5,000 target. I set up another Just Giving charity donation page and already more than 25 donations have been made.
Tomorrow, I will set off from Millennium Square in Leeds for Aachen in Germany. I suppose I should really be cycling to Kenya, but sadly I don’t have enough time and, more importantly, not enough energy either.
However, the destination isn’t important, but the effort involved in four and a half days of cycling more than 250 miles is the real point. I will cycle alone, unless any reader wishes to join me on the first leg of the journey to Hull Port, and my wife will carry supplies, spare parts, tools and clothes in our car.
We cross from Hull to Zeebrugge on Thursday night and will be stopping for three nights along the way through Flanders – not as lovely as Yorkshire – but rather flatter and easier to cycle.
I suppose this isn’t exactly ‘cycling for softies’ and it is certainly a challenge, but I have had plenty of practice over the seven years I have been organising these charity fundraising rides.
I have spent many years involved in international development work in Parliament, so I know how very small sums of money can go a long way in the world’s poorest countries.
Of course there should be a political solution to the problems of world poverty but until that happens, the poorest cannot wait and I am confident that if I reach my £5,000 target, the Funzi and Bodo Trust will use that money to benefit many, many people who desperately need it.
The Funzi and Bodo Trust exists to try and change things for the better. Working with local people it is creating the conditions for a better environment where people can reach their true potential.
Amongst many achievements so far, its clinics have been able to offer a wide range of general medical care, treating conditions from malaria to toothache and for patients with complex or life threatening illnesses the Trust often provides funds for vital operations.
Please help the Funzi and Bodo Trust. You can donate easily by going to my Just Giving page or by texting FUNZ62 to 70070 which will instantly donate £10. If you would like to see me off on Thursday, just come to Millennium Square before 10am.
Fabian Hamilton is the Labour MP for Leeds North East and Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament.