To get to the area where Diane Fossey studied the gorilla, we had to drive for about 13 hours a day for 2 days, and so we got to see the true Uganda and some of the people who lived there. By travelling through a developing country, we got an insight into another world that we forget even exists when we are in the comfort of our own homes.
Small children, running to get to school with just a couple of belongings to their name and yet nothing to keep them in, shoeless and with very little clothing were, unfortunately, the norm. They didn't have some of the basic things that we take for granted and yet, in spite of that, every one of them we met greeted us with a broad, welcoming smile and a wave. We offered them what we had - a sweet, pencil, bottle of water - and from their reaction you would have thought that we were handing out gold bars. They were so grateful and happy. We could learn a lot from them.
The second, but much more shocking, view whilst driving was of the the numerous UN camps that were homes to hundreds, if not thousands, of victims from the Congo. I knew very little of the conflicts in the Congo, but have subsequently researched the history between the rebel movements, foreign fighters, and local militias who fight to control Congo's vast natural resources. The atrocities that affect the civilians of the Congo make for horrific reading. However, there are people working hard to raise funds and awareness for victims including The Tatiana Giraud Foundation www.tatianagiraudfoundation.org - which supports victims of rape in the Congo, an area where a woman or girl is raped every 8 seconds in the DRC. More than 200,000 women have been raped since the beginning of the conflict.
Since then, I've thought about starting or helping a charity or organisation or providing the young children with the very basics for school - a T shirt, sandals, a water bottle, pencils and pens all contained in a holdall or lunchbox. It's a very simple idea but to them, it would mean the world. A model friend of mine, Marius Hordjik, and I have recently been thinking of ideas of how to raise money for this or another charity or organisation such as the Tatiana Giraud Foundation so I thought I'd see what you thought and if anyone can expand on or come up with a different idea to the lunchbox/school supplies then please let me know.
Our latest fundraising idea is for a large group of well known male models and actors to run the New York Marathon next year, hopefully providing strong awareness and fundraising for a great cause. It's even been suggested that if enough money is donated then the team should run the entire marathon topless (a brave idea considering it will be November!).
Going to Uganda had a real impact on me and whilst this week's blog probably isn't the easiest of reading, I felt it may help to raise awareness, interest or generate discussion which I think can only be a good thing.