Spurred by Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Big Society” policy drive, 22-year-old history graduate Oliver Underwood has decided to take on a grueling 3-month jolly to raise money and awareness for various charities, and is currently looking for corporate and individual sponsors for his trip.
“I plan to set off in late September, which doesn’t give me much time to prepare, but in a way I’ve been planning this challenge for years. Ever since I was at prep school, when I thought of all the countries in Africa, and how desperately photogenic some of them must be, I always knew that I wanted to somehow visit them in whatever way I could.”
Oliver plans to drive from his family home in Epsom to Dover, board the ferry to Calais, drive south through France and Spain, then continue his journey through Africa, planning to arrive in Cape Town by Christmas where he will rejoin his family for a short beach holiday before returning home.
“My Dad has agreed to donate his 3-year-old Land Rover, because he’s just bought a new one for himself. We’re hoping to raise some corporate sponsorship to cover fuel, hotels, security and other expenses, then anything left over will go to worthy causes.”
His father, Neil Underwood, couldn’t be more proud of his son. “I think Oliver is an inspiration to all young people to get off their backside and do something for those less fortunate. A lot of the companies my firm works with have already expressed interest in what Oliver is planning to do, and it looks like BA will donate our Cape Town flights.
"I hope other kids will follow his initiative – this is exactly what Cameron is talking about. He’s really captured the imagination of the people round here, and we plan to hold a charity dinner in September as a send-off, and to top up the funding for this challenge.”
Oliver will be updating an interactive on-line video blog as he goes, so that people can follow his progress, and add comments. “The blog will include links to the sponsors’ and charities’ websites, so people can click through to see what this is all about.
“We hope to announce which charities this will be for soon,” Oliver says. “We’re in talks with several big-name charities at the moment, but we haven’t decided yet. Some of them want me to visit sites where their activities are taking place. I will obviously want to drop in for a bit of gravitas for the blog, but I’d rather not commit to a specific itinerary in case I like a particular spot and decide to chill there for a few days.
“We're thinking maybe one of the charities to do with children? Or bone marrow? We’ll see. Hopefully nothing too heavy or depressing though. Scares the corporate money off.”
Now that Oliver has caught the Big Society bug, he already has plans for his next charity project. “I’m hoping to get a celebrity involved for the next one, and we’re in talks to have a 7-day bed-in with Cheryl Cole at the Amsterdam Hilton, maybe to raise awareness for a charity that helps people who are too ill to get out of bed?”