Monday, 16 July 2012

Why am I doing this?

For those of you who have not been following my travels to date, my name is Pat McCarthy (aka Barcelona Pat), and I am travelling by motorcycle solo from Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of Argentina to Alaska.

In my last web-posting at I clocked up over 20,000 kms travelled in 87 days.  However, as I head from the developing countries into the more affluent world, I thought it timely to reflect on some of what I have seen and how that relates to my fundraising efforts. 

Once I had taken the decision to do the `Big Trip´ I quickly realised that it would be more meaningful if I linked my efforts to some cause.  I had two thoughts:  the organisation had to be working in each of the countries through which I travel (for obvious reasons); and they had to be helping kids (the reasoning for this is explained in the Day 76 entry on my website).  There were not many organisations that met these criteria, and UNICEF was the obvious choice.

I was aware of their work in a general sense through my job, but it was only when I looked more closely into what UNICEF are achieving across the world in support of those most in need did I fully realise how worthy an organisation they are.  While a United Nations agency, they are only funded through voluntary donations, but they are very efficient.  For example Unicef UK is able to direct 76% of all donations direct to programme work with children (2009 figure).  That´s pretty impressive in my book.  And, when you consider that (for UK tax payers) the UK Government will match what you give with a further 20% through the most excellent Gift Aid scheme, it would be true to say that almost all of what you give goes to support kids directly.

I have deliberately not taken photos of young people as I have travelled, emotive as they can be.  But the images I have seen will remain with me.  Children as young as 5 or 6 years old having to hawk their wares on street corners, instead of having the opportunity to learn and enjoy a true childhood.  Cheeky and often cute it is easy to forget as a traveller passing through that they should not be there!  I am alive to the economic pressures placed on people in poorer countries - but depriving small children of their rights to education, their rights to gain the tools to achieve their full potential, their rights to better contribute to their own societies as they grow up – is false economy in my book.  Unicef works to ensure that children´s rights are protected – as violence against kids is not limited to the developing world.  Just have a look at the statistics for the number of children living in poverty in the world´s richest countries – eye opening stuff!

This is where Unicef plays a real role.  Because of who they are they are able to affect change at the Governmental level in over 190 countries around the world, ensuring that policies and programmes are put in train that protect these kids, and their right to be children.  But they are also able to work at the ground level directly funding projects that changes real lives every day. 
In the education field, an area close to my heart, they help build schools, train teachers and buy books so that those without access can learn.  But interestingly they view the development of the child in a holistic way.  A child´s wellbeing is not simply served through access to classes.  Unicef´s rights work is essential, so are their health programmes.  An estimated 4,000 children die every day from diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation and a lack of safe water.  A preventable disease that claims so many is outrageous in the 21st century.  Any world traveller who has experienced the `travellers trotts´ (as I did in Peru) will have some insight into the problems experienced by these kids on a daily basis.

Unicef´s work in seeking to tackle these problems is truly amazing stuff by anyone´s standards – and that is why I chose to link my journey to their work.

And you too can be part of this journey.  For those of you who have already donated you have my sincerest thanks.  For those of you who are planning to support these kids – now is the time to act.  Don´t put it off until later.  Do it now.  Click here and donate direct to Unicef through the secure Just Giving website. 

I have been amazed and honoured by the (at the time of writing) 15,000 plus hits I have had on my website - but I also have a favour to ask as I think quite a number of you are repeat visitors.  If I am going to reach my targets for this endeavour, I need to expand awareness of what I am doing and why.  If you could spare a few minutes of your time – here are some examples of how you can really help me out, and become part of Pat Around the Americas – and help Unicef´s work:
  • e-mail the website link and just giving page details to all your friends, family and work contacts...  saying something like:    You might be interested in the trip that this guy I know is doing, riding his motorbike solo from Argentina to Alaska and raising money for Unicef.  Have a look at his website (you can also subscribe direct for further updates), and perhaps donate something to his cause.  It is really interesting stuff – and some great photos.  The links are:  and
  • Share the website links with all your contacts on facebook, twitter etc.  Feel free to `friend me´ - Pat McCarthy is the name.
  • Have a quick whip-round for spare change from colleagues in your workplace, family, club or other social grouping (you can print a copy of this to show them what it is all about).  After collecting you can donate the sum online through the Just Giving link, so you´ll also get a record of that donation.  Remember to note the fact on Just Giving if all people contributing are UK tax payers, so Unicef can get the 20% Gift Aid contribution.

I am funding every penny of this trip myself, but I want to eventually match those costs with donations to Unicef.  This whole project will last a couple of years – but please help me meet my first major milestone on the fundraising road, while Idris and I are still battling our way northwards.

Many thanks

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