Dara O'Briain, Melanie C, Jack Dee, Chelsee Healey, Phillips Idowu and Greg James yesterday started day three of the biggest challenge of their lives, The BT Red Nose Challenge: Hell and High Water – a five day ordeal which sees them attempt to travel under their own steam down Africa’s mighty Zambezi river and raise as much cash as possible for Red Nose Day.
The challenge is sponsored by BT, a long term supporter of Comic Relief challenges since 2009.
After a dramatic day on Day 2 – when Dara and Phillips found themselves down the wrong rapid – the celebrities are having an emotional day, meeting some of the people who could benefit from the team’s hard work.
With no breakfast to keep them going, Jack, Phillips and Chelsee accompanied a group of children, aged seven to 18, on an arduous two hour walk from their village to their school. Although the children were happy to be walking to school – and even sung a song and their national anthem to welcome them – the team are becoming more and more aware of just how serious this challenge is.
Phillips said: “It’s back-breaking stuff. Before I got even half way my back was killing me! We were surrounded by woodland on both sides and the ground was really unstable; we were even walking over parts that become streams and rivers in the rainy season. These kids have to do this every day, two hours there and two hours back; that’s a drive from Birmingham to London every day. Some of these kids they can’t even eat breakfast before they do this, and we decided to do the same.”
He went onto say: “I have a son and a daughter, and when I looked at every single one of these kids it was like looking at your own child. I thought how I would feel if that was the lifestyle my kids had to live. But these are the lucky ones – there are plenty of kids out there who can’t even get to school at all! And when you ask them what they want to do, they’re all such unselfish jobs – they want to be teachers nurses, police; they want to help the community.”
Whilst Jack, Phillips and Chelsee trekked to the school, the rest of the team, Greg, Mel and Dara, stayed in the village to understand more about why the other children can’t get there.
Greg said: “Today it all made a bit more sense. When we were sitting in the village this morning, the thing that struck me was the amount of kids surrounding us who are just desperate to go to school. The kids I’ve met today have got nothing, relatively nothing in their lives, and all they want to do is learn stuff, and it made me feel incredibly guilty for all those times I’ve taken my life for granted. If you’ve ever had that same feeling, if you’re feeling guilty right now then do them a favour, and do Comic Relief a favour and donate. You’ll be changing someone’s life, seriously.”
Despite a heart-wrenching morning, the team are now back on the water, pushing themselves to the limit as they travel 111km down the deadly Zambezi river, battling torrential downpours and negotiating rapids officially known as ‘Gnashing Jaws of Death’, ‘The Washing Machine’ and ‘Oblivion’ as they make their way beyond the world’s largest waterfall – Victoria Falls.
The team are putting themselves through hell and high water in the hope of raising £1 million to help children in Zambia go to school. This could pay for life-changing education for thousands of vulnerable girls, for whom it means an escape from poverty and safety from child marriage and pregnancy. Any extra money raised will help those living unimaginably tough lives across the UK and the rest of Africa.
BT is giving £30,000 a day to support the Hell and High Water team as part of the £500,000 it has committed to raise in support of The BT Red Nose Challenges – a duo of celebrity challenges sponsored by BT for Red Nose Day 2013.
You can quiz the celebrities of the BT Red Nose Challenge: Hell & High Water by submitting questions to BT using #AskZambezi on Twitter.