Baraka Co-Founder & Director
If you know me reasonably well, you will know I am a runner and that my previous career was in fitness – I still teach the odd class here and there. You may think this has happened by design, but it is a total coincidence that our entire team in Zambia are also regular runners and fitness enthusiasts. Coincidence or not it gives me great pleasure that the guys set an example of a “healthy body, healthy mind” and are renowned for their early morning runs. Our team are well known in the areas that we work, and I feel it important that we send out the right messages about looking after yourself and preventative medicine. Afterall we are not just an educational charity as we also run medical trips and healthcare programmes.
Andrew who is our operations manager, is probably the most consistent. He is out most days, often at 5.00 am, and though not noted for his speed, can seemingly jog along all day. It doesn’t matter if he is at home in Lusaka or out in the field, he’ll usually be up early and done and dusted before dawn. He’ll throw in a few press ups and sit ups for good measure and enjoys coming to the gym with me in Lusaka when I am visiting.
Cosmas our field officer, or Cos as we call him, is the old man of the team, approaching 56 this year. His legs – as they like to say in Zambia – are buggered, but up until recently he was still joining the team runs, if not for the whole part. I remember one amusing occasion when we took a group of “Muzungu” volunteers for a run around Kapiri golf course. We were out for 5 Km run and easing into it as a group and for some reason Cos tore off after a few seconds of the run. “Crikey” I thought, “has Cos been doing some speed training since my last trip?”. He blew up after a couple of minutes to such an extent he had to walk back to the lodge. I still like to remind him of this years later.
Timmy works at our Learning Centre but has been our volunteer trip driver for over a decade. He has just hit 40 but keeps himself in good shape. He is the good looking one, who unbeknown to him attracts the most favourable comments from our female volunteers. He borrows my press up bars when I am not in Zambia and usually remembers to give them back. Like Andrew he likes an early morning run but being a snake and reptile lover often gets distracted on runs when he sees a good photo opportunity to post on facebook.
Many of you know Lorna who amongst many things used to run our sponsorship programme. Lorna was a very keen runner, but as luck would have it – again a coincidence – her replacement Ellie is also a keen runner. Keen enough to enter the Livingston Marathon to help raise funds for Baraka. Though she is slightly regretting this now it has been moved back due to Covid-19 to the sweltering month of December from the cool month of July.
She has talked (or maybe press ganged) Mike into joining her for the marathon. Mike is our young gun. 23 years old and running our education programme at the Learning Centre. He is a natural runner but not a natural pacer as yet. He was over in the UK last year on a teacher exchange programme. I took him out for a 5 Km run down by the Thames. He belted off, only to end up having to walk the last couple of kilometres. I can’t say that being 30 odd years older than him, that it didn’t give me any pleasure seeing him blow out!
Kings is a recently graduated teacher who is working up at our Learning Centre. I first started running with Kings about 10 years ago when he was a young teenager. I dragged him out for some speed reps which he seemed to enjoy. He is a good strong, powerful runner. I’d put him in the perfect 400 metre runner category.
My sister Louise comes out to Zambia every year for 6 weeks to help with our education programme. She is a teacher and yup you’ve guessed it, a runner. Apparently, I persuaded her to do a 10 Km race about thirty years ago and she was hooked. She has gone to extremes now though and has completed an Ironman triathlon. She won’t forgive me for saying that she is in the second half of her fifties, but she gives the boys a good run for their money on their early morning bush runs out in the field. In fact I believe she has been known to leave them gasping and trailing on the odd occasion.
Me, I like to run wherever I go. I’ll usually hobble round carrying the latest injury wondering why I can’t still run at the same pace I did 25 years ago. Running at dawn in Zambia and watching the sun come up as you plod along is one of the many joys of being able to visit this beautiful and friendly country. I have had some wonderful experiences running in Zambia and one of my regular routes usually involves an encounter with some giraffes and zebras. However it is the smiling, welcoming faces of these warm and friendly people that gives me the most pleasure.
My one piece of advice if you come along on one of our volunteer trips is don’t forget your trainers. There will always be one of our team keen to run with you, whatever your level. For someone who grew up running around the streets of South London, I must say it really is worth the effort.