Student - June 18, 2009

JUST KEEP ON WALKING FOR AFRICA

A Wageningen UR-based team will be facing 'the world´s greatest team challenge' on Saturday 20 June. This is how Oxfam Novib describes the Trailwalker sponsored walk in which teams of four walk (or run) 100 kilometres in under thirty hours. Besides the physical challenge, each team undertakes to raise at least 3000 euros to provide education for 120 children in Mali and other African countries.

Ready to go through the mill: fltr Wouterleen Hijweege, Jan van Brakel, Jânio Tjoe-Awie and Jan-Willem Nibbering.
The Wageningen team is made up of three Wageningen International staff members and an associate from the Ministry of Development Cooperation. They call themselves de bikkels, which they translate as the go-getters. Their motive? 'By going for it now we help give a new generation education, opportunities and a future.' The support team is led by initiator Lyda Keijzer, who works at Tropenbos International. Back in January, she saw an advert for Trailwalker. ‘I mailed it to Jan van Brakel, our ‘professional’ walker, who runs the facility point at Wageningen International. Just for a joke, really. But he took up the challenge – as long as I took care of the sponsorship side’, says Lyda. ‘And then we had to find our bikkels.’

That certainly wasn’t a walkover. ‘The funny thing is, I’m about the oldest person in the building, and I’ve worked here the longest; 37 years’, says Van Brakel. ‘I asked all these younger blokes, but they thought it sounded a bit much. You’ve got to take the time for some serious training. It’s quite something, one hundred kilometres non-stop.’

The bikkels have been sponsored to the tune of 4220 euros by dozens of individuals and organizations, many of whom have left messages of encouragement at www.tinyurl.com/bikkels. Colleague Ton Hoogveldt ran a sweepstake on the walk. For five euros a go, staff could bet how long it will take the bikkels to complete the trail. ‘Guesses ranged from 18 hours to over 29 hours’, Hoogveldt reports. ‘There was a lot of enthusiasm, and people who were away on mission even mailed in their bets from places like Indonesia. We raised 280 euros. Half is for Oxfam Novib and half for the winner.’

The walk starts at Hoekelum near Bennekom and cuts across the moorland and forests of the Veluwe. However long the walk takes them, Van Brakel has complete confidence in his team. ’They’ve all been training hard, and they’ve all done challenging walks and cycle tours in the past. You need people who know what it means to tough it out.’ And their strategy for getting to the finishing line? ‘Just keep on walking.’ / Clare McGreror

More about Oxfam Novib Trailwalker and the education projects to be supported with the money raised on http://2009.trailwalker.nl/

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