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The challenge of a lifetime

The challenge of a lifetime

Build Africa supporter James Edwards, and crew mate Tom Redon, took on the challenge of a lifetime in August, raising vital funds for our work in rural Africa. Canoeing 1,000 miles through the Alaskan wilderness in total isolation.

We caught up with James to find out what motivated him and Tom to take on the world’s longest canoe race.

Why have you chosen to support Build Africa?

My previous role was in Africa, and I always found the continent fascinating. I really like the fact that Build Africa’s work is sustainable, not just one-off cash injections. Their projects in Kenya and Uganda help entire communities beat poverty and inequality. 

Why did you want to do this particular race?

Tom and I are both in our mid-thirties with young children. Having left the army just over a year ago, I really wanted to prove to myself that I've still got 'it' both mentally and physically. We feel that we lead fortunate lives, so pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone for a good cause gives us huge personal reward whilst helping raise awareness and money for children in rural Africa.

What was the toughest part of the challenge?

We had a bit of a nightmare journey to Canada, which meant that on day one we were already operating on little sleep and with quite bad jet lag. There’s a 50 mile lake to cross at the beginning of the race. You must cross the lake in a straight line, into a headwind and with no current to help you. It was 35° and took us seven hours. I think that bit was mentally the most difficult. At times like that remembering the good cause we were supporting really got us through. 

And do you think you would do it again?

It was a great achievement to complete the race in eight days and 53 minutes, although it still hurts a little that we were so close to getting in under eight days! But realistically I don’t think so, there’s too many other things to do! Seeing it all for the first time was a life experience.