Teacher Daniel Bent, inspired by an ActionAid talk about our work in Chembakolli, has raised over £4000 for ActionAid by cycling 15,000km from the UK to the remote Indian village.
Below are excerpts from a book he’s written about his experiences, now available from www.dannybent.com.
“Weaving in and out of the stationary traffic, I tried to keep my eyes on the road but couldn’t help noticing the life on the sidewalks.
Mini tent structures were set up as houses for families, and mothers sat cooking over small stoves or fires whilst their children washed in the gutter water.
Sky scrapers, towered above these people, housing industries powering a world standard nuclear programme and a leading space programme.
I found it hard to come to terms with what I was seeing; people living in slum tents in the countryside didn’t seem as bad as this.
The people who work in these offices, people who have six figure salaries, have to walk past this every day on their way into work.
Between these imposing concrete structures was something altogether more impressive.
Using wood, corrugated iron, plastic and cloth, people have created a whole city at street level - the slums.
Twenty-five million people live here, turning over two hundred and fifty million dollars a year.
They recycle everything and they live amongst vermin. I passed by the Western Railway Cricket fields. Seven different games were proceeding on a pitch the size of a normal cricket ground.
Others were practising in the nets. It was rammed with those who shared one thing in common, cricket, bringing all types of people together - men and boys, rich and the poor. The Indians love it."
“I switched on the video camera with bleary eyes for my last video diary.
The usual red light flashed to let me know it was recording. I was sitting on the edge of a checked mattress with the usual stains I’d come to expect engrained within the fibres.
A couple of mosquitoes were circling me with intent. There was a commotion outside as a man selling pots and pans was escorted away by the police.
I looked back at my camera and still the light was flashing. I got as far as “This is my last…” before emotion dried me up. I couldn’t speak.
Choking down a sob, I grabbed the camera and swept the room with it, recognising that I was starting the last day in the same manner I had the first - surrounded by kit.
Just like me, it looked a little older, sun blemished and in need of a deep soak, but it had made it over fourteen thousand nine hundred kilometres, halfway across the world, crossing fourteen countries in six months and two days. There were only one hundred kilometres to go, meaning I’d be in Vidyadaya School in Gudalur today.”
ActionAid and ACCORD are currently looking for two teachers to fill voluntary teaching placements in Vidyodaya School in Gudular. Find out more and apply here.
If you’d like to buy Daniel’s book about his travels, please visit www.dannybent.com.