My old mate Simon Berry just celebrated his 63rd birthday and it got me thinking about who in ones life you can look to as influences in different areas. My zest for travel may well have come from knowing Simon at university in the 70s as he went on to work for the then Overseas Development Authority with postings to Bolivia [where he and Jane got married], Zambia [the seeds were sown for Colalife], Egypt and the Dominican Republic which was my first real exotic trip at the age of 24 or so. It was my first transatlantic trip to the USA as I went via Miami and Haiti to get there and back via New York and Washington. A couple of years later I moved to Hong Kong as Simon and Jane seemed to move around the world from one project to the next before settling back in the UK and commuting to Zambia to set up ColaLife.
Colalife came about through Simons work in Zambia helping to develop dairy farming and seeing in the remotest poorest villages that there was always a red crate of Coca Cola somewhere. Despite having no clean water or sanitation facilities how was it that Coke could make it to these villages? And so Simon and Jane started ColaLife with the aim of using the Coca Cola distribution network to get vital medicines and other supplies to remote villages. The idea was to use the space between the Coca Cola bottle tops to place wedge shaped boxes filled with these supplies, primarily rehydration tablets as diarrhoea was and still is the prime cause of infant mortality in Africa. It didn’t work out as originally planned as it was too complex to be able to use the Coke crates and spaces but the concept gained traction in other ways enabling ColaLife to provide life saving medicines at an affordable price for young mothers in Zambia. As I write it looks like the World Health Organisation is about to put the Cola Life product – Kit Yamoyo – on their list of vital medicines for developing countries which will mean that Cola Life’s work will come to its natural, successful, close.
Simon and i have done a couple of lengthy bike rides to raise in excess of £20,000 to help fund their work in recent years. The first was Boulogne to Biarritz and the second was Caen to Cannes. And yes the next is D to D so we are looking into cycling from the Dordogne [where i now live]to Dorset [where i was born]. Watch this space for further details as it will be a 6/7 day ride in 2020.
So having got me to the Caribbean some 40 years ago I can in some small way thank Simon and Jane for getting me to the Dordogne after those 2 epic bike rides. I should also mention that it was Jane who encouraged me to work in France with Canvas Holidays in St Jean de Luz and Soulac when we were at University so she should really take more of the travel influence credit! Simon and Jane are now happily ensconced in rural Sussex pondering their next influential project and i hope will never fully stop travelling despite the allure of grandchildren and family. For my part I shall look forward to sharing a pint with them when next back and celebrating what they have achieved with Colalife and the World Health Organisation. Thank you.