Felix Jakens, RESULTS’ Grassroots Campaigns Manager, tells us how his Footsteps for Futures challenge changed his perspective on his journey to work.
I’m coming to the close of my week-long Footsteps for Futures challenge, walking to and from work every day for a week. I have to admit it hasn’t been the hardest thing I’ve ever done; I’m lucky, I only live 2.2 miles from the RESULTS office. Brixton to Vauxhall, it’s not that far.
But despite the fact that my challenge doesn’t compare to that of Joe Hepworth – over 10 miles each way for three days, or Laura Kerr, 6 miles each way for 5 days- I’ve still learned a few things.
Firstly the experience has given me the chance to actually get to know the streets I travel down every day. I cycle to work 4 out of 5 days a week normally and I’ve never really taken in the places I sail through. Like so many of us in cities we know our beginning and end points, but have only a passing relationships with the places in the middle.
Taking the time has opened my eyes to the people, businesses, street names, and people that line Stockwell Road and South Lambeth Road. These unglamorous areas are the kind of places that, unless you lived in them, you’d be unlikely to explore.
But I have now seen these little areas, no doubt on the verge of creeping gentrification spreading north from Brixton, west from Oval and south from Vauxhall, as they are enjoyed by the people who live in them. Vibrant Portuguese cafes and bakeries seem to be no more than five metres apart. As I walked down the road over the last few hot nights, I felt as though I could have been on the streets of a city in the Iberian Peninsula.
Further along my route, the Portuguese gives way to the east African, with Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurants with Ge’ez signage and poor English translations beneath. I got to know each one a little bit as I walked past twice a day, hearing the different accent and languages being spoken by the ever-present patrons.
I learned to know and appreciate these places and faces in a way that my traditional speed had never allowed.
But this challenge wasn’t all balmy strolls and newfound appreciations.
I’m not a morning person at all and have come to cherish the lie-ins that my route affords me – a rare treat in London. But the earlier starts were nothing compared to the sinking feeling that I felt before each walk. Sure, once they got going they were OK, but when I was sitting in the office, or getting ready at home, the sense of the challenge that lay ahead loomed large every day. Walking is slow, tedious and tiring for those of us that don’t do it recreationally. Exactly what you don’t want before a day of concentration.
As I go back to riding my bike and getting the tube, I will remember that I choose this route. For millions of children there is no choice but to travel whatever distance it might be to the nearest school. They also have no say in whether the resources they require to learn will be waiting for them once they arrive.
This is why I support the work of RESULTS; to ensure that not only can children get to school, but that once they get there they receive a quality education that will help them break the cycle of poverty.
The Footsteps for Futures campaign runs until October 2014, with many people participating up and down the country next week (28th-1Aug). You can complete your own Footsteps challenge at any time. Money raised will go towards RESULTS’ work to increase access to education for children around the world.
To get involved or to sponsor a participant, simply visit www.footstepsforfutures.org