|© UNICEF video|
|Students and teachers greet members of the ‘UNICEF Cabalgata’ team during a stop on their cross-country trek on horseback to raise awareness of the needs of rural schools and communities in Uruguay.|
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, 10 December 2007 – The town square of Bella Unión in the northernmost tip of Uruguay was buzzing with excitement one day last month. The population of the border town had gathered to cheer the ‘UNICEF Cabalgata’ team, which was leaving for a four-week, 1,000-km cross-country trek on horseback that concluded here in the capital yesterday.
Led by UNICEF Representative in Uruguay Tom Bergmann-Harris, the team included members of Uruguay’s Scouts, riders from all walks of life and, of course, the hardy Criollo horses that are found throughout Latin America.
During their journey, which commenced on 12 November, the riders visited many rural schools – interacting with pupils and teachers to better ascertain their needs, dreams and hopes, and to hear about their problems and fears. Since many rural children in Uruguay still travel to school on horseback, sometimes for up to two hours, it was only fitting that the field trip be undertaken on horseback, too.
As a concrete step towards better education, each school visited by the UNICEF team received a small library to encourage reading.
|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF riders were joined by international participants and partners during their four-week journey across Uruguay.|
Children enthused and excited
The ride was a gruelling one, with participants covering distances of up to 48 km a day in the heat and rain. But the pains and bruises were quickly forgotten as the riders were greeted with warm welcomes and colourful celebrations at each school.
The students, their teachers and parents no longer felt forgotten. At one stop, a teacher told the visitors it was the first time in her 22 years of service that anyone had come to ask about the school’s needs.
It would be impossible not to be touched by the children’s enthusiasm and excitement, the tangible opening of their curious minds as they interacted with the team and delved into their new libraries. The children also contributed to the story of the journey, adding their thoughts and ideas to the ‘travelling book’ that accompanied the visitors from school to school.
Keeping the ride on track
As the ride progressed, the team was joined by new faces from as far away as the Netherlands and Namibia, in addition to riders representing the World Bank Representative, a US Ambassador and the South African Embassy’s chargé d’affaires in Uruguay.
The Uruguayan Army, a tour operator who specializes in horse riding (‘Recorriendo Uruguay’), provincial governments and the UNICEF Uruguay staff each played an instrumental part in keeping the ride on track.
The adventure came to an end with a triumphant procession to the Parliament building in Montevideo on 9 December. Travel-weary but jubilant, the riders brought not only their own stories but also the ‘travelling book’ filled with the previously untold stories of so many who touched them along the way.