For Claudia, Thump, thump, breathe, For Eliafura, thump, thump, breathe, For Joyce thump, thump, breathe.
This was the mantra running round my head last year when I felt ready to give up and walk the last 1k of the 10k run I did for Sport Relief. I hit a physical and emotional wall - I could do 10k easily now, but last year had no time to train. My Comic Relief journey as a volunteer blogger and fundraiser was coming to it's end. I was in London at the official Sport Relief games, while the Team Honk, the army of bloggers who come together each year to raise money for Comic Relief, were about to deliver the Lands End to John O'Groats relay baton to the very tip of Scotland. At the 5k point I got a call to say the Scottish team were close to making it. I had already cycled the baton 50k, walked it 20k early in the month, I'd not long returned from meeting these incredible women, whose names I was repeating, in Tanzania. With the help of Comic Relief funded business mentoring they were transforming not just their own lives, but those of other women in Africa. I was overwhelmed the journey was coming to an end. But thinking of them kept me going.
This year as I attempt six hours of dancing at Wembley with Team Honk, in the Red Nose Day Danceathon, I will think of these ladies, but I will also be thinking of the amazing people I met in Kenya this year with Comic Relief. The women raising HIV negative babies, the girls being mentored to stay in school and gain confidence through football, the women making nutritious porridge that brings income and saves lives, the street children dancing in safety and shelter at HOVIC. Hope for Victoria's Children. Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. The Lakes region is the area of Kenya we travelled to gather material to raise awareness online, of how Comic Relief funds change lives.
My sponsorship always keeps me going too. Thanks to Betfair, who kindly sponsored me £150 to take part. Thanks to all those who have sponsored me, or the whole of Team Honk. It is not too late to sponsor, and no donation is too small. Just £2.50 can buy a mosquito net and save a life.
It is HOVIC I really wanted to show you here on Wild & Grizzly, I know Lori loves design, and Wild & Grizzly is always packed with incredible inspiration. In Kenya, design is changing lives. Annie from Mammasaurus took some lovely photos, and even managed to get me in some. As we approach the danceathon and I need to prepare mentally, I think putting myself in the picture is important.
After a huge HIV/AIDS epidemic, The Lakes region is only just finding it's feet, it must deal with the legacy of so many orphans and children living on the street. Hovic is a safe space where they can get shelter, food and learn skills. The first thing the children wanted to show us was their incredible beading designs. I came home with a bracelet that says Comic Relief, their patience with such a tricky task amazed me. Beading passes time positively - so many street children turn to glue sniffing - and it also brings income.
The sewing room was a magical place where children practice on paper and then material as they gain skills, and make beautiful clothes and gain qualifications to allow them to gain employment or set up their own business.
Nancy will be one of the names I run through my head as I try to find my stamina at the Danceathon, she is telling me here how HOVIC changed her life, she rose from having no prospects, to become a seamstress.
When I interviewed David Walliams who was making live appeal videos and doing live TV interviews from Hovic during our stay, I asked him why he chose Comic Relief, his answer was simple. Apart from the perfect match of doing something funny for money, they understand the complex issues surrounding giving money sustainably. Over the weekend the layers peeled back and we got to the heart of lasting change. We started with HIV positive mothers learning how to keep themselves happy and healthy, we met village women making nutritious porridge, from local ingredients which have the power to bring HIV positive patients out of their bed and back to caring for their families and earning income. We met the mentors and football coaches giving girls confidence and self-belief to defend their rights to stay in school, and then HOVIC, healing a whole generation of street children and rebuilding their futures.
Comic Relief know how to create lasting change in the UK and around the world. I will be dancing at Wembley and thinking about the incredible people have met, at projects where I live in Nottingham, and across Africa. It will be a cathartic dance for me. There is lots to celebrate, and lots more still to do.
Thanks to Lori for having me.
Penny blogs at Parentshaped and for Wayfair at A Residence. She has travelled to Africa for the last three years with Comic Relief as part of TeamHonk.org, who live blog, and galvanise social support, digital awareness and fundraising for Comic Relief, via the blogging community.
*Thanks to Penny for sharing this inspiring story and please donate if possible to this amazing cause.