Montrose man Mark's marathon effort in Kenyan heat for orphans project

(C) SuppliedMark walking with an armed guard during the marathon trek

A Montrose man has walked 175 kilometres through the African bush under armed guard for orphans affected by HIV/AIDS . Mark James has now hung up his walking shoes for good following his epic effort to raise money for a water project in the village of Nyumbani.

Montrose man Mark's marathon effort in Kenyan heat for orphans project(C) SuppliedMark James (right) and Simon Boughton previously completed a world record squash marathon to raise money for Nyumbani

The walk from Nyumbani village in the African bush to Nyumbani Home for HIV+ orphans in Nairobi also kicked off the 25th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the COGRI-Nyumbani (Scotland) Trust. Only walking during daylight hours in 38 and 40 degree heat, Mark said it proved to be the hardest challenge he has ever undertaken.

He was helped by police and two volunteers from the British Embassy who provided transport, close protection and medical assistance. "Never again," said Mark. "Now I am hanging up my walking shoes for good.

It was exhausting but all the pain was worthwhile knowing we raised so much money for the village." Mark arrived in the village to an amazing welcome from the children, Deputy British High Commissioner Susie Kitchens, a host of dignitaries and Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady of Kenya. Mark's reward was the GBP2,300 raised to date for a water project in the village.

He first visited Nyumbani in 2015 with his mother Alison Stedman who has spent the past 15 years helping with fundraising and volunteering for orphans with HIV in Kenya. Mother-and-son were joined on this year's trip by Emily Wood from Montrose who fell in love with the youngsters and all things Nyumbani when she went there in February 2017.

Montrose man Mark's marathon effort in Kenyan heat for orphans project(C) Wallace FerrierEmily Wood, Mark James and Alison Stedman.

Mark realised September 8 2017 was the 25th anniversary of the founding of Nyumbani and came up with the idea of walking non-stop to Nyumbani Home to raise awareness and funds. Because of the re-run of the elections in Kenya the walk in September was initially postponed before taking place earlier this year.

His mother Alison - chair of the COGRI-Nyumbani (Scotland) Trust - was making her final working trip to Kenya in January after 20 missions over the last 15 years.

During her charitable career, Arbroath Rotarian Alison's team's efforts have supplied five houses, a block of four teacher bedsits, two classrooms, irrigation, solar pumping, wells, 100 cooking shelters and a large literacy project in Nyumbani Village.

The orphanage currently provides shelter for more than 135 HIV orphans and houses a busy diagnostic laboratory serving the orphanage and the wider Nairobi area, raising much-needed revenue.

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