|© UNICEF Ethiopia/2007/Indrias Getachew|
|In Ethiopia, Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor meet Luam, who was injured in a landmine accident.|
By Sarah Epstein
LONDON, United Kingdom, 5 October 2007 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Ewan McGregor and his friend and colleague Charley Boorman recently spoke about their pan-African motorbike adventure known as the ‘Long Way Down’.
The 15,000-mile journey started in May 2007 at John O’Groats, Scotland and finished at the southernmost point in South Africa – Cape Agulhas – in August. Their carefully planned route took them through two continents and across 18 countries in 85 days. Along the way, they stopped off to meet local people, experience different cultures and visit three UNICEF programmes that are helping children and their communities.
Talking to UNICEF, the pair reflected on the harsh reality of life for so many children across the African continent and the people they met through the UNICEF programmes.
It was important to Ewan and Charley to explore parts of Africa that are less travelled. They wanted to make sure they heard what it is like to be a child in some of the countries they passed through – and to see firsthand what is being done by UNICEF.
A long way to travel – and to help
“We wanted to show a wide range of what UNICEF is doing,” Ewan said. “So we visited three different projects [including two] in northern Ethiopia at the Eritrean border – there’s been conflict there over the years. There’s a great deal of landmines that have been laid there and sadly, many children end up being injured by these landmines.
“We went out to Gulu in the north of Uganda,” he continued. “We met some children up there who’d been abducted as young as six and seven. They’d been forced to fight as child soldiers in a horrific rebel army and forced to torture other children, and in many cases go back to their own villages and kill and maim people in their own villages – so that the children are completely cut off from their past, so that there’s no going back.
|© UNICEF UK/Uganda 2007/Sarah Epstein|
|Ewan and Charley deliver a School-in-a-Box and a Sport-in-a-Box to St. Martin's School in Uganda.|
“The third visit was in Malawi,” said Ewan. “I went back there and was lucky enough to see some of the community-based child centres that UNICEF helped to set up, which allow kids to be looked after – children who’ve been orphaned by HIV and AIDS.”
Ewan and Charley were moved by what they saw in Africa and described the sense of sadness they felt at first, followed by a sense of hope.
“The first time you’re there, it’s so upsetting to see,” Charley said. “And then you do the UNICEF projects and you breathe a sigh of relief that someone is actually trying to help. And the more you look into it, the more you realize there are people out there with the same goal – to try and reach children.”
Ambassadors for change
Ewan McGregor, who is also a UNICEF UK Ambassador, said he and Charley Boorman, a longstanding supporter of the organization, are often asked what stands out most from their travels.
“For both of us, it’s the incredible, tireless work of UNICEF's local staff on the ground, working to give children the care and support they need to survive,” he said. “Day in and day out, UNICEF is taking action, preventing babies being born with HIV, helping children orphaned by AIDS, giving kids a chance to go to school. There's so much to do, but without any funding from the UN, they need money urgently to reach every child.”
“Crossing Africa, we realized the enormity of what UNICEF has set out to do,” added Charley. “We want people to help UNICEF and give something – however much it is – to help make the world a better place for every child. We've seen what a difference it can make.”
Travelling with Ewan and Charley were Russ Malkin of Big Earth and David Alexanian of Elixir Films, who are producing and directing a documentary of the journey for the BBC, as well as three cameramen and a medic.
‘Long Way Down’ is also raising money and awareness for the Children’s Hospice Association of Scotland and Riders For Health. To find out more or donate to the Long Way Down fund for UNICEF, visit www.unicef.org.uk/longwaydown. Money raised goes to children affected by poverty, conflict and HIV in Africa.
Amy Bennett contributed to this story from New York.
UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett speaks with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman about their recent motorcycle journey called ‘Long Way Down’ and the UNICEF projects they visited during the trip.
Official website: Long Way Down
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