Monday, 7 December 2009

An alternative Christmas gift?

I don’t usually count myself as one to be influenced too much by what I see on TV however I must confess that Top Gear’s systematic, yet unsuccessful attempts, to destroy a Toyota HiLux in 2002 have lingered deep in my memory.

(Left) Top Gear's Toyota HiLux that was driven down steps, crashed into a tree, drowned in the English Channel, had a caravan dropped on it, crashed through a small wooden building, hit with a wrecking ball, set on fire, and placed at the top of a tower block while being demolished, yet still started and ran (although the chassis is cracked and the body is holding it together). Ref: Benjiya

Unfortunately Fantsuam's only vehicle, a Nigerian-made Peugeot 504 whilst hardy, does not exhibit similar levels of stamina.

In December 2008, I wrote one of my first blogs about the journey down the ‘Follow the yellow sand track’ to Kono, one of our more remote microfinance centres, and how our ‘trusty’ old Peugeot only broke down, what was it, four or five times?

Right: Half way back from Kono, still 2 hours from home and the Peugeot is getting its exhaust pipe re-welded and idling mended and ......

Exactly one year later and our reliance on the battered old workhorse has become too much. The frequency of its breakdowns is not only threatening Fantsuam’s finances but also preventing us from reaching the rural communities that need us most. Field officers lives are put at risk having to travel long distances on the back of under-powered motorbikes driven by reckless youths, and loan repayment rates are suffering when we don’t reach our clients at the appointed time on the appointed day to make a collection.

Reaching communities like Kanem has become more difficult where roads and bridges are not really designed for road-going vehicles

A loan disbursement in Zankan: the Field Officers know they can reach their appointments on time and safely when there’s a car they can rely on

One trip to Kono in the dry season nearly destroyed the Peugeot. We can’t even attempt disbursements to this remote community during the rainy season.

So having had enough of talking about needing a new vehicle I set about finding one: there is a bit of a chicken and egg situation when an organisation like ours needing a big capital item: you don’t have the money to pay for it but you don’t know how much money to raise until you’ve found it – and by the time you’ve raised the money – someone else has bought it.

But Fantsum and its beneficiaries (and its volunteers!) cannot wait forever.

Kagoro's Waterboard Road is more suited to children’s tyre rolling than tyres attached to cars which it destroys at will

I called a friend in Jos, the nearest centre of car dealers, and asked him to look out for a suitable vehicle. Well when I say ‘suitable’ there was only one vehicle that I could think of that could take the daily punishment of the Bayan Loco and Kagoro Roads. Only one vehicle that could be mended by the roadside with a spanner and some good luck. Only one vehicle that was ‘man’ (or should I say ‘Jeremy Clarkson’) enough for the job.

After searching the streets of Jos high and low, we found our car: an eight year old HiLux, with all the original engine parts and body work intact; with a double cabin to carry field officers or international volunteers and at a good price: N1.65 million (about $10,500).

But there’s the problem. How to pay it?

So the ‘Bring the HiLux home’ campaign starts: a HiLux belongs on the rutted roads of Bayan Loco. The SUVs of Europe can only dream about the ruggedness of Africa, or more specifically, Kaduna State Nigeria.

A HiLux whose life will be worth living: a HiLux on the streets of Jos is like a qualfied and trained astronaut whose skills are being wasted at a supermarket checkout. A Fantsuam HiLux will be a fulfilled HiLux: bringing loans, business training, health counselling and testing and internet services to the remote rural communities. Saving lives and securing livelihoods. Every ounce of its famed ruggedness being put to the test.

And you can help.

If you'd like to help give this HiLux a chance to help Fantsuam and its many beneficiaries - you can make an online payment here. Very many thanks to our partner organisation Dadamac for making this facility available so quickly. Any donations made by UK tax payers will qualify for Gift Aid.

Unlike the Top Gear HiLux, this HiLux will save lives and change lives for the better.


Alan said...

Enjoyed the post... good luck with the fund raising.

Anonymous said...

You can contact me on the 18th!!! Can't wait to see you! Sx

Anonymous said...

Toyota Hilux - unbreakable! I think you missed one point however - it was also tied to a concrete block and dumped int he sea.....where it stayed overnight and when the tide went out it was retrieved....and yet again it started! What a machine - and I concur - it is exactly what you need. So I am going to open my checkbook and deposit some cash online. Good luck with the rest of the cash you need - I hope you get it and can therefore then manage the roads of Kaduna State!
Jared xx

Niels said...

I just kicked in some money in order to make the Hilux happen! Good luck on this great project. I myself was a VSO volunteer and can feel quite well what you experience. I got an email from Sabine and Markus about your project ... so thanks to them as well for passing this on! All the best, Niels!

Cicely Nigeria said...

Update on the fundraising: this appeal raised a whopping £1,416 - with many thanks to the efforts of former VSO Sabine and her friends and colleagues. On top of that, Friends of Nigeria has suggested that their most generous Christmas contribution go towards the total and the result: WE HAVE A HILUX!

Thank you to everyone who contributed...There are still a couple of $$s outstanding in the form of a loan which still has to be repaid but overall we are almost there.

Within the month I hope to publish more about how it's being used - but for now - thank you, danke schoen, merci beaucoup, multo grazie.

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