It is 06:20am BST and I am sat on the airplane, on the runway of Bristol airport, waiting to taxi-off. As I sit here, looking out the window, I wonder how different the view will be from Lusaka and what the next six weeks have in store.
I am excited but I am nervous too whilst also feeling proud of what the ACE2Zambia team have already achieved. In just seven months, the team have successfully raised over £4,000 for the resurfacing works, acquired £4,300 worth of personal scholarships and secured £14,500 funding for the construction of the Beach Volleyball Court. A lot of money for which the team owes thanks to many organisations and individuals for their support in making this dream a reality.
As this is my first blog post I think it is well worth summarising the entire journey thus far. I will aim to keep it brief and condense seven months into as few lines as possible!
I had heard many excellent things regarding the IDEALS project prior to becoming involved. The project has provided, for over 10 years now, opportunities to UK sport students to enhance their coaching skills by working overseas whilst at the same time successfully encouraging development through sport. And so when I heard the project was expanding, with possibilities of becoming involved as a civil engineer, it was an opportunity I did not want to miss. The work would involve the resurfacing of two community pitches and the construction of the first ever Beach Volleyball Court at the Olympic Youth Development Centre (OYDC). Constructions desperately needed to support the ongoing work the IDEALS project performs.
A team of six students were selected through the submission of an application and a relaxed interview process, and the ACE2Zambia team was formed. The first challenge put to us was how would we raise the funds? It was originally estimated we would require £9,000 in order to perform the works and an additional £1,000 each in order to get ourselves out there. A JustGiving page was set up, scholarships offered by our institutions (QUEST scholarship) and the university (Alumni scholarship) were applied to, the help of the Architecture and Civil Engineering (ACE) society was enlisted – who organised a crazy golf social with all proceeds going to the project, raising over £600 and for whom we owe huge thanks and Durham University kindly donated £5,000 funding for the Beach Volleyball Court. The scholarships provided us with the funds required to book flights but the team fell approximately £3,000 short of money for the work they wanted to perform. However, at this point, it is only April so the team still has time to raise the necessary funds.
Alongside all this fundraising, the team were busy planning the logistics of the works and the trip itself. This involved Lil Fraser, Danielle and I visiting Durham University for the IDEALS induction were we were fortunate to meet with representatives from the Wallace Group, Volleyball England and Sport in Action. All of whom helped us begin the planning stages of the works and became key figures, all being actively involved and helping at all stages of the project thus far. Following the induction, the team had a better awareness of what was expected from them and could begin the initial design stages. This involved making contact with the relevant parties in Zambia to find out about material availability, acquiring drawings and specifics about each site, researching further the costs likely to be encountered and looking at UK standard designs and developing these models to be appropriate in our setting.
By June, the remaining £3,000 had been acquired through sponsorship provided by Wentworth House (£500), Feilden Clegg Bradley studios (£250), a large donation from the Institution of Structural Engineers (£2,000) on the behalf of Mark Evernden as well as a sponsored 100km cycle ride. Funds raised, the team was permitted additional time to concentrate on the detailed design stage of the works.
The detailed design stage involved Skype meetings with some key players in Zambia, as well as regular A2Z Skype meetings, meetings with lecturers at the university to develop the design further and receive constructive criticism for progression, meeting with experts in the field (including Rik, owner of the Bristol Green House who made his own backyard studio from tyres). Everyone involved, thank you very much for offering help where you could and when asked, we appreciate every effort made. As the detailed design stage progressed, it became apparent that the cost of the Beach Volleyball Court would cost upwards of £5,000 and was likely to be in the region of £13,000 to £14,500! This was the biggest challenge faced yet by the team, because with just three weeks to go raising such funds appeared impossible.
This hurdle was overcome as a result of the generosity shown by the universities forming the Wallace Group and Volleyball England. In the course of just three days the team had secured the £14,500 and the equipment needed for Beach Volleyball had been donated – just in time for the team’s departure to Lusaka.
I finish this blogpost as I am approaching the end of my flight to Lusaka. The journey has been a long one and I have not slept properly since leaving the UK 31 hours ago. I cannot wait to arrive in Lusaka now. All my nerves at the start of the journey have surpassed leaving excitement.