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The Better Life Cycle has a simple goal; to give some of the world's most disadvantaged children a better life through education.

Dan Harrison set off from London in August 2009 & will be joined by several friends en route. Originally planned for one year; now it looks like it will take much longer.

These photos show the story so far >>>

Please help by sponsoring the cause.

Sponsors & Supporters

Muma

Mum

My rock! For supporting me through all of this & staying remarkably calm throughout

Tati Cynth

Fundraiser, travel advisor and more; my super aunt Cynth has been a constant flow of support

Tati Cynth
Pete & Jenny run the Paris Marathon!
Where are we?
Sinai, Egypt

Sponsors & Supporters

Celerant Consulting

Huge thanks to all my Celerant colleagues for support, fundraising effors and big sponsorship

Gondar, Ethiopia

Sponsors & Supporters

Vivi

Our cycling protogé and fundraising queen; soon to join us again in Africa :)

Vivi
Alice

'3 Peaks' Alice

Literally climbed mountains raising funds for our cause, raking in over £1,000!

Bethany Children's Orphanage - Albania
Aswan, Egypt
Sahara, Sudan

Sponsors & Supporters

Red Inc.

Huge thanks to Adam and his ethical team at Red Inc. for supplying a shedload of stationery for free.

Yenege Tesfa - Gondar, Ethiopia
Bidna Capoeira - Damascus, Syria
 

Getting Schooled in Zambia

Sunday, 06 October 2013

My first taste of southern Africa was a delight; Zambia.   My 1000km cycle along the Great North Road was a tour through the wilds that came to an explosive halt.  Lusaka provided the backdrop for my recovery, a long awaited rendezvous and the chance to get involved with a fantastic local project; Appleseed School.

Africa, how it should be

Having disembarked the MV Liemba in the exotically named Mpulungu I had over 1000km to cycle along Zambia’s Great North Road to Lusaka for my rendezvous with Manu.

Straight away there were subtle yet noticeable differences to East Africa.  Zambia seemed gentler, quainter; the little mud-built homes now often adorned with glass windows and painted decoration; people seemed less crazed by my appearance; less ‘Mzungu!’ more ‘How are you?’.  My impression was: ‘Africa, how it should be’. A terribly archaic and romanticised image conjured from two-generation old books and films, yet a nevertheless pleasing one: a simple yet satisfied rural life; long grasses blowing in the breeze, cows and goats milling about and wide-eyed innocent children cavorting with imaginary lions.  Zambia felt homely and I took an almost instant liking to it.

Curious Kids
Grassy Road
Happy Zambian Kids

The landscape like the people seemed more genteel.  Gone were the brutal ascents of Rwanda and Burundi, the plane of the gods had smoothed a land for more leisurely living, where knoll and vale swung softly together.

Sunset Road

The first days rolled by with hearty hand-waving and smiles, hundreds of kilometres drifting by.  There were endless open spaces. Camping was very comfortable, my tent open to the starts, with the cool night air making my sleeping bag an even greater haven of cosiness.  That was until one night I woke with a fitful start.

Starlight Camping

Exodus

Finding water in the small towns hadn’t been easy so I often stopped in small villages to refill.  ‘If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me’ is normally a reasonable assumption when drinking local water, however on this occasion I doubt the water shared with me by a kindly shopkeeper did either of us any good.

At midnight that evening violent eruptions ejected from every orifice of my edifice; the velocity and volume of which were stupefying.  The outburst continued unrelenting all night.  I’m sure armies on the march have left less mess. I pitied the poor soul on whose land I’d camped, so much so that I tucked a small peace offering beneath a nearby brick mould hoping the discovery of a few precious Kwacha might offset the disillusionment of the newly created sewerage facility.

The first light of dawn brought considerable relief. With an effort usually only spared only for monumental tasks, I packed up my tent, loaded the bike and wheeled out of the bush.  I was severely dehydrated the only water I had, I knew to be contaminated.  In half light, in the middle of nowhere, with a bedraggled zombie-like being waving at you, you’d forgive anyone for not stopping, yet the first car that passed pulled-over and offered me water, and stayed with me until the second vehicle passed – a pick-up – with space enough to carry me the 100km to the nearest town.  Can you imagine that at home?

I spent the next days curled up, shivering; trying and failing to stop the exodus. The town had little comforts or medication to offer.  After four days I decided to hitch a lift into Lusaka to get some proper medication and nutrition.

Midday Shelter
Footprints on the Road

Reunion & Recovery

Arriving in Lusaka was a huge relief.  Manu greeted me from the bus station. While I’d been cycling Rwanda, Burundi and northern Zambia, she’d been volunteering for a children’s home in Namibia, while her knees were recovering.  The time apart had been a healthy break for us both from some of the ardours of living side-by-side 24/7.

On my cycle south I’d been dreaming of our reunion and we fell into each other’s arms.  Amid all that changes on our journey, Manu’s arms feel like home.

We’d arranged to volunteer at Appleseed, a community school in a deprived neighbourhood of Lusaka.  Joy & Ken Hoffman - the founders of the school - were teachers at the nearby American International School Lusaka (AISL), they hosted in their home on campus.

It took a further week until I’d fully recovered.  As Kenny said to me ‘you’ve been dealt some bad cards with your health on this trip’ – it has felt like it.  Ill-health dampens anyone’s enthusiasm for adventure and at times more recently my maladies left me with a feeling that I just want to get the trip done, before the next ailment nails me.  However it’s not a sentiment that lasts for long.

AISL: Special Guests

Manu and I had agreed to give a talk to the kids as AISL, so one early Friday morning we stood in front of a mass of several hundred school children to invite them, for a few minutes, along for the ride.  The presentation went down very well, particularly my recollection of eating bulls’ testicles in Slovenia (which prompted an unscheduled anatomy lesson for one teacher). The theme of the talk had been to challenge convention, to make conscious choices and make the most of the opportunities for a life less ordinary.

The talk seemed to spark some interest in students and teachers alike.  Subsequently Manu and I visited several classes with kids of all ages, covering language to theory of knowledge.  We both enjoyed the enthusiasm and curiosity of the kids.  One class’ homework was to summarise what they’d learnt.  The next day this inspiring insight was forwarded on to me:

Today at AISL, we were fortunate to have a guest speaker present to us his incredible story. This man, named Dan Harrison, spoke to us of his travels bicycling from the UK, through the Middle East and downwards through Africa.

He began by telling us about his job in London. A typical 9-to-5 focused heavily on the money earned at the end of the day. Despite success in his career and a university degree, he felt dissatisfied, unfulfilled. Taking into account his displeasure related to his life situation, he came to the idea of getting away. Of cycling through Africa. After planning and considering the idea, he left his London home in 2009 and has been traveling ever since.

Despite the obviously incredibly inspirational side of his story, there was something about it that made you question your own life. Living in a foreign and international community, the students of aisl are already unbelievably lucky to learn about and experience other cultures. However, regardless of the unbelievable life we are living, we still are expected to follow standard protocol: go to school, get good grades, go to university, get a good job, etc. Yet today, we were presented with the story of a person who decided that this wasn't enough. Who believed that there is more to life. It forces you to asked profound questions: what is the purpose of our lives? Why were we put on this earth? What are we supposed to achieve? What makes a good life? There has got to be something more to it, yet that is up to each one of us to discover. Our individual purpose, our sense of meaning, what makes us happy. And whatever that is, whether it be working in an office or cycling through Africa to give back to the less fortunate, we should strive to achieve it. And don't ever give up.

Johanna Ledgerwood - Vincze

… far more profound than I’d been myself.

Appleseed

Joy and Ken arrived in Zambia in July 2011 to teach at the American International School.  Shortly after arriving they joined their housekeeper, Mary to visit her local neighbourhood, the Bauleni Compound and they began visiting regularly to play, sing and offer classes the local kids.  Most of the children were not attending school yet they had a tremendous appetite for learning. Inspired by the enthusiasm of the children – Joy, Ken and Mary rented a building and opened RHO Appleseed School.

Like many good causes Appleseed started as personal social project, founded on compassion and now, in order to achieve its goals, is faced with the challenging transition to a professional not-for-profit/NGO.

I set about helping Joy and Ken to structure their ideas into a plan on how to grow the organisation, building into a five year strategic plan with step-by-step actions to see a purpose built school erected for 250 children.  Our discussions tried to weigh compassion with pragmatism, emotion versus objectivity.  It was tricky to find the right balance but in the end we produced a very useful plan which should hopefully provide the catalyst for Appleseed to get more professional support it needs to grow.

Manu and I visited the school a number of times and while I was planning and writing, she conjured up another fantastic video to help promote Appleseed from the footage we shot while we were there.  It gives a great introduction to the project and combined with the plan should provide great support to the Appleseed fundraising efforts.

The kids at the school loved watching the video too...

As our stay neared an end we were invited to the British High Commissioner’s Residence for a press call to highlight our work and a few drinks.  His Excellency – or Simon as he’d rather be called - was a very pleasant host and we shared a few tales of the Better Life Cycle with him, his family and some reporters.

We’d really enjoyed our stay with the Joy, Ken and their daughters – Ally and Emma - who were great hosts, as well as the warm welcome from several of the AISL staff.  We were given a parting gift from the school which we have donated to Appleseed.  Find out more and support the project at www.RHOappleseed.org

With a good amount achieved, Manu’s bike reassembled, her knees strong and my gut recovered, we were set to hit the road again.  Next stop, Victoria Falls.


Comments:

Great to see the cotribution you and Manu made to the projects in Lusaka. Obviously you make a great team, enjoy the final stage of your adventure.

From Claire and Tony on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 at 11:12


Well done both of you - Appleseed deserves to flourish -let's hope so. Mum xx

From Anonymous on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 at 12:07


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Blog posts

Better Life Cycle RSS Fee
  • Getting Schooled in Zambia
    Sunday, 06 October 2013
  • Burundi, Hairy Females & the MV Liemba
    Saturday, 21 September 2013
  • Rwanda: Ghosts, Potatoes & Progress
    Sunday, 08 September 2013
  • Almost Too Much Adventure
    Thursday, 01 August 2013
  • Don't Mess with Monkey
    Saturday, 22 June 2013
  • Riding the Rift - Cycling through Western Kenya
    Tuesday, 28 May 2013
  • Enterprising in Africa
    Saturday, 11 May 2013
  • Northward - the return to Kenya
    Wednesday, 03 April 2013
  • The Zanzibar Paradox
    Saturday, 26 January 2013
  • Welcome to the Ride
    Wednesday, 12 September 2012
  • Meeting the Maasai
    Thursday, 06 September 2012
  • The Year that almost Killed Me
    Friday, 18 May 2012
  • Entering Ethiopia
    Tuesday, 03 May 2011
  • Sudanese Swansong
    Wednesday, 22 December 2010
  • Life on the Nile
    Friday, 13 August 2010
  • Pain in the protest
    Saturday, 03 July 2010
  • Moving on… the moments that make it
    Sunday, 30 May 2010
  • End of the Damascene Dream
    Saturday, 10 April 2010
  • O man, O man, Oman
    Thursday, 04 February 2010
  • Trapped in Damascus
    Friday, 08 January 2010
  • Turkish Tales
    Wednesday, 25 November 2009
  • Albania: Bread, Salt and Heart
    Thursday, 15 October 2009
  • Former Yugosalvia; Existing Wonder
    Sunday, 04 October 2009
  • Bends, Bikers Bars, Borders & Balls
    Friday, 25 September 2009
  • You can do it! Brussels to Cortina
    Tuesday, 08 September 2009
  • A flying start
    Thursday, 27 August 2009
  • The last hours before the off
    Saturday, 22 August 2009
  • The final countdown
    Wednesday, 22 July 2009
  • £100k in a day - the best failure ever!
    Thursday, 02 July 2009
  • Time's a tickin'
    Wednesday, 27 May 2009
  • Planning the logistics of giving
    Monday, 09 March 2009
  • New Year's Revolution
    Monday, 12 January 2009
  • Fundraising success: taking tips from Obama
    Thursday, 04 December 2008
  • Explore - a weekend of inspiration
    Thursday, 27 November 2008
  • Pushing the right buttons – Website Launched
    Thursday, 20 November 2008
  • A little spark required
    Monday, 10 November 2008
  • London to Cape Town - where to start?
    Monday, 22 September 2008