I’m proud to say that this month we launch our “Footsteps For Futures” fundraising campaign! For all the info, go here, but in essence this is similar to our previous fundraiser “Live Below the Line” in that we want you to put yourself in the literal footsteps of someone who is living in poverty. With Footsteps For Futures, we’re looking at the sometimes massive distances that too many children still have to walk each day to and from school. By choosing to walk to or from our schools or workplaces we’re standing in solidarity with those kids and seeing just a little bit of what it might be like for them.

The official challenge period is from the 28th July to the 1st of August, but I’m choosing to do it slightly differently (and you can too!).  As I have such a crazy work travel schedule over the next few weeks, I’ve decided to do a walk or a run in each city that I’m working in (London, UK; Washington D.C. and Seattle, USA; and Melbourne, Australia), and to share some thoughts about RESULTS work in these places as I do the challenge. This approach might work for you if you are going on holiday, or have close links with a school and want to wait until the new term starts.

Aaron F4F London 1
Setting off.

I started my own challenge last week and walked home from the office (4.5 miles).You’ll notice that this is London, and yet I don’t have a jacket, or even an umbrella. It was really sunny and had been hot the previous few days, but this particular day the temperature had plummeted at lunchtime, grey clouds rolling over from horizon to horizon. I hadn’t checked the weather report – and if I had been living in a village shack without electricity or radio, I may not have had the option to. I was just hoping that the blustery wind wouldn’t chill me and give me a cold, and most of all, that I wouldn’t get dumped on by the rain. I wondered how often the kids that walk these distances ever make the same mistake I just made?

Aaron F4F London 2
“Charity Towers”.

The walk home is an enjoyable one, along the Thames for the most part. It’s a good path, well-lit at night, lots of people around, and safe. During the day, it’s even safer. Again, I wondered about how safe the roads that children in the developing world must walk to school are. At a 3 hour roundtrip, this would be a very tough school run for a parent.

I walked past the MI-6 building, where James Bond apparently hangs out, and then past 89 Albert Embankment, known as “Charity Towers”. This slightly run-down block has probably one of the highest concentrations of international development workers in the UK. I’m proud of the British public for the trust and support they give to our sector, both through individual donations, and through our Government’s commitment to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on international aid.

Further down the river, you simply can’t miss the Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament. Development agencies get you so far, but they’re all dwarfed by what the government can do. We owe the current government a huge debt of gratitude for reaching  the 0.7% target. This amounts to nearly £12bn each year being invested in the end of poverty. These investments have the potential to change the world. Every time I see this building I think of the great leaders and allies that RESULTS has in Parliament, people like Nick Herbert, Cathy Jamieson, Annette Brooke, and dozens more, and I feel proud to be their partners in the fight against poverty.

Aaron F4F London 4
The Houses of Parliament.

I finally made it home and immediately dropped my bag. I hadn’t realised exactly how awkward it was to lug my laptop, notebook, and all my papers. It was easy on the tube. But walking for 90 minutes with it over one shoulder? My back had started to complain. Not fun for a small, growing body to have to do that ten times a week.

Now, what had I been rushing for? Why had I returned home coated in sweat, despite the cold wind? I was rushing off to the clinic for a free, NHS health check-up before heading abroad for nearly five weeks of work travel. I believe that no-one should suffer ill health because of a lack of money. The NHS, with its “free at point of care” bargain between the citizens and the state, is the best health system in the world and the envy of many. I’m pleased to see that developing countries like Ghana, India, are Ethiopia are all making huge strides towards bringing affordable – an ideally free – healthcare to their citizens.

I think again about the hypothetical child whose shoes I have just walked in for the last 90 minutes: would she be able to rush home to her village to access free healthcare? In most cases, I don’t think she would have. So even though with Footsteps for Futures we’re mainly thinking about the walk to and from school, it’s really about much more that that.

I’m looking forward to the next leg of this journey and I hope you’ll join me in taking these Footsteps For Futures.