Thursday, 27 March 2014 04:06

Motorcycle Expedition Around the World to Support Zambia Sports Academy for Orphans (Guest Blogger: John Nomad)

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Besides exploration in beautiful Africa, we developed a passion for the children of Africa, especially the orphans. In spite of its beauty, Africa has been the scene for some of the most dramatic events of this world: from civil wars to ravaging diseases to extreme poverty and mass starvation, and the most affected are the children. These children are left behind at a very young age, with no hope of survival or any chance to a decent future. It is very hard to explain the horrors these children go through. We have seen with our own eyes how entire adult male population of pygmy villages were wiped out by the rebels, leaving behind women (raped and beaten by the soldiers) and children. We have seen hundreds of children left behind after the parents died of AIDS. In some places in Zimbabwe there are whole villages without adults, just children ranging from 2 months old to 12 years old.  These 12 year olds are caring for the smaller orphans, cooking food, finding wood for fires and building shelters. San (Bushmen) people die of thirst in their own Kalahari in Botswana, steps away from 5 star resorts that serve ice-cold cocktails, because the government plugged their boreholes with sand and rocks to force them out of the Kalahari. In many Zambian villages there are more than 50 deaths per day, all of them of AIDS, leaving behind scores of young children.

It is therefore impossible not to be affected by the things you experience in Africa and this comes from both the beauty of the land and the tragedy of its children. Having been involved in this continent for so long, we decided to do whatever we can to give some hope to these orphans. We didn’t want to just build another orphanage (there are a lot of those in Africa), we wanted to create something that would give the orphans pride and fulfillment. All our life we were involved in some kind of physical training (my wife is a nurse, I am a former professional footballer), so we found an amazing niche: building the only Sports Academy for Orphans and Underprivileged children in Zambia, offering these children not only a place to sleep and eat, but a chance to do something amazing with their lives. 

After working for 3 years in supporting this initiative with private funding (ourselves and a handful of personal friends), we establish a 40 hectares property near the fantastic Victoria Falls in Livingstone, given by the famous Chief Mukuni for this purpose. We planted an orchard with over 400 fruit-bearing trees, we drilled boreholes and built a water system, built a fence around the property and currently are setting the foundations for the sports facilities. Once completed, this Academy will boast 2 full size football pitches, 2 training size pitches, 2 tennis courts, 2 basketball courts, 2 volleyball courts, swimming pool, track and field facilities and much more. There is a very solid reason for establishing a Sports Academy: the talent in the children of Africa is immense and largely undiscovered. It only takes living in their villages to discover how they run to school and back, barefoot, sometimes 15 km round trip, without the backup of a great coach behind, or a professional diet or special training. We witnessed San children playing football for 3 hours before a 90 min match starts, in 45 degrees temperatures and playing in soft sand; or, when we were stuck in the Kalahari, how a Bushman guided us to his village by running in front of the car for 22 km, through the bush, with bare feet, without stopping once to drink water, in spite of our insistent pleas.

This kind of talent determined us to create this Sports Facility, so, hopefully, some of these orphans will reach international levels of professionalism and tell the world their story as no one else can. Truly, this dream of ours could change the course of these orphans’ lives and when we realized that, there was no turning back.
In order to recruit professional coaching help and attract the attention of sports organizations around the world, we jumped on our motorbike, in November 2013, and headed North on a Round the World Motorbike Expedition to raise awareness for these orphans and for the Sports Academy. 

We crossed the whole of South Africa (from the Cape of Good Hope on the East Coast to Durban, through to Pretoria and then the North West to Springbok), Namibia (from the Fish River Canyon in the South to the Himbas in the North), Botswana (from Gaborone through the Trans Kalahari highway to Kasane), through Zambia towards Zanzibar on the Indian Ocean, passing by the Ngorongoro Crater and the majestic Kilimanjaro on the way to Kenya.

Through mud and sand, heat and rain and crazy traffic, chased by elephants from our tent, bitten by mosquitoes, but also sharing stories with local tribes around a fire at night, listening to their songs and dances in the African night, we have experienced all and as we lived it, our hearts were filled with the story of Africa and yearned of telling the world about it.

Having done more than 60.000 km in Africa on bikes, this was very familiar to us.  Actually, after living for so long in Africa, we were looking forward to Europe and the rest of the world, so we can tell everyone about this project.

We are already in Portugal, having crossed Africa, then on to Turkey, where we started an epic trek on the Mediterranean Coastline, starting in Istanbul, on to Greece (exploring the Greek culture, food and landscapes from Thessaloniki to Crete, from Peloponnese Peninsula to the North West Coast of Ioannina), then on to Italy, going around the Sicilian Peninsula, then riding the spectacular Amalfi Coast to Pompeii, then Rome, on the way North, Monaco, Southern France and the whole Eastern and Southern Coast of Spain to Gibraltar, Morocco (where we reached Sahara) and Portugal, where we are at the moment, on our way up to Norway, Russia and Japan.

More than 5,000 km on the Med Sea gave us a chance to share our story to thousands of people and we met incredibly generous and hospitable hearts on our way.  This proves to us once again that, in spite of the problems and the tragedies that befall all of us at times in our lives, this is still a beautiful world. 

We ride 2up on our Yamaha Super Tenere, fully loaded, with a total weight of 490 kg (21 kg over the recommended load), with no mechanical problems to date, and with just the occasional fall (it wouldn’t be a proper expedition without those) and only 2 near collisions (both of them in Europe, if you can believe that).

If you are interested in keeping informed about our whereabouts and adventures, you can check us out at:
www.nomadsportsacademy.com
www.nomadsportsacademy.blogspot.com
www.nomadsportsacademy.smugmug.com

 



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