In recognition of World Water Day today (22 March), local charity Fields of Life unveiled its plan for a team to cycle more than 500 miles around the island of Ireland within a week in August 2013.
It is hoped this ‘Cycle for Water’ will raise more than £20,000 to allow the charity to bring clean drinking water to at least 6000 more people in Northern Uganda.
From its base in Portadown, Fields of Life works to bring positive change to communities in East Africa through the provision of quality education, clean water and health promotion. This ambitious challenge is in celebration of the charity’s 20th anniversary and mirrors one of Fields of Life’s first fundraising activities in 1993 when the charity’s founder, Trevor Stevenson, drove a tractor around a similar route to collect money.
CEO Richard Spratt will be leading the cycle. He explained: “With a child dying every 20 seconds from water-related diseases, one of our main initiatives is to drill wells and bring this most basic human need to as many vulnerable and marginalised groups as possible, such as those who have been displaced following years of civil unrest and the war by Joseph Kony.”
The charity drilled its first well back in 1999 and completed a total of 50 within ten years. The success of the programme far exceeded expectations for local people and word began to spread about communities becoming self-sustainable. This is the mission of Fields of Life – helping people to help themselves and so the charity then made the move to purchase its own drilling rig and trained a specialised installation team, the only agency from the UK and Ireland to do so to date.
Richard continued: “Having recently acquired a second drilling rig, we now have the operational capacity to drill 10 wells per month and to date we have brought clean water to around 260 villages, serving more than 260,000 people. Each well drilled costs around £3,600 so our aim for this cycle is to allow us to build at least six more and by 2019, we hope to have brought clean water to 1 million people.
“Here in Northern Ireland we take the abundance of clean water for granted but in Uganda it is heart-breaking to see women and small children forced to walk for miles to collect cans of contaminated water which can make them very sick or even result in death. The provision of a well can make a miraculous difference to their lives. We find that people then tend to make their homes around it, a village grows and a self-sustaining community develops.”
The challenge will start on Monday 12 August when the team will cycle from Belfast to Derry~Londonderry, then travel through Donegal to Sligo, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, finishing just outside Dublin on Sunday 18 August.
Richard concluded: “If we are able to raise our target amount, it means each mile we cycle will bring a lifetime of clean drinking water to at least 12 people.
“We would invite anyone interested in joining the cycle, either for a day only or to participate in the complete 530 mile challenge to contact the Fields of Life office on 028 3839 0395 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
“Gear can be provided if necessary as our corporate sponsor for this cycle, Chain Reaction Cycles, has very kindly offered to donate the use of bicycles and appropriate clothing. The cycle will also be accompanied by medical and safety professionals at all times.”