An Interview with Niamh O Riordan from the All About Africa Project
So, you're going to Africa. Why Africa?
Everyone I've met has asked me this very question. The best answer I've come up with is, "Why not Africa?" It is a challenging destination but putting aside the horror stories - nine killed in the Congo this week - it's an amazing place. Humanity first emerged in Africa – over three million years ago, 1.2m tall Lucy, our oldest ancestor, walked the earth in Ethiopia. It's richer in terms of biodiversity and mineral wealth than any other place on earth. We will tour the Sahara Desert and will cruise the world's longest river, the Nile. We will see wildlife in abundance and will experience many different cultures along the way. From a practical point of view, the people are known to be very friendly and hospitable and many of them speak English. From an educational perspective, Africa has so much to offer in terms of music, art, history, politics, religion, development and so on. Plus, there is so much in the media about Africa at the moment. In England, the BBC have organized 'Africa 05', a twelve month celebration of African culture. Here at home, Trócaire's Lenten Campaign is focusing on poverty in Ethiopia. Internationally, world leaders are coming under increasing pressure from individuals such as Nelson Mandela to address the problem of poverty in Africa.
So, you plan to leave in April for eight months and to travel by land from Cork all the way to South Africa?
Yes. We're actually under a bit of pressure time wise. We need to leave as soon as possible to avoid the rains – they spread disease and are in the habit of washing roads away and making life generally unpleasant. We'll travel for about eight months and will cover a distance of about ten thousand kilometres. We plan to make our way through Europe by land and enter Africa through Tunisia in the North. We will cross Libya into Egypt and from there we head south. The most difficult places for us will be Libya, the Sudan, Northern Kenya and Ethiopia.
And what is the All About Africa Project?
Well, we realized it would be the trip of a lifetime and wanted to share our experiences with people at home. And then we thought, "Why stop there?" Why not go one better and try to bring our story into the homes and schools of East Cork? We could visit hospitals and schools with Irish connections and tell their stories? And what about Irish Aid Agencies working in Africa? We could visit their projects? Wouldn't the students and teachers here who work so hard raising money for Irish aid agencies be interested in this? Would our trip possibly inspire more fundraising? It would also be relevant to the curriculum – History, Art, Music, CSPE, and Religion etc – and could be very educational. So, we interviewed local principals, teachers and students to get their input. Their reaction was extremely positive.
We have already started writing articles weekly in the Imokilly people and are also working with local radio stations such as CRY (Community Radio Youghal) so that people know what we are about. We are arranging to visit schools in the Imokilly Area in the coming weeks to speak to students about Africa and our trip. We are building an educational website, www.AllAboutAfrica.net, about Africa for use in the classroom which we will also use when we are away to keep people up to date with the trip.
It sounds like an expensive undertaking.
It won't be cheap, that's for sure, but travel in Africa is not expensive. In some places we will be able to get by on about €15 a day in total. Apart from our travel costs, we have a number of costs related to the project itself and we will be looking for help to meet these costs. We are organizing a number of fundraising events in the coming weeks and are also looking for sponsorship from local businesses. We would also love to speak to individuals and companies in the area who may be able to provide some of the equipment we need if we are to tell our story.
So how can readers become involved in the project?
First of all, keep reading the Imokilly People. We would also love people to go and have a look at our website at www.AllAboutAfrica.net and to sign up for our electronic newsletter through the website. Or why not come to our table quiz at O'Meara's Bar on Thursday the tenth at 8.30?
We are also interested in speaking to people with connections in Africa or who are aware of projects in Africa that we could visit. We’d also like to speak with teachers who would like us to visit their schools in the coming weeks and who might be willing to organize some fundraising for us.
We’d love to hear from individuals interested in making a donation to the project or who are interested in helping us with fundraising. Companies might be able to provide us with materials such as a camera, camera accessories, digital audio recorder, digital video camera, laptop or a mobile phone. We also hope to get sponsorship from businesses. There will be a lot about this trip in the media so commercial sponsorship would be worthwhile. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has already come on board with us. Thank you so much.