A sports tutor from Nescot is to run a marathon through West Africa to raise money for charity.
Daniel Raffo is running in Sierra Leone on May 26 in aid of Street Child, which has projects including building schools, training teachers and working with youngsters sleeping on the streets.
Daniel will be running in memory of his childhood friend Lance Corporal Nicky Mason, a soldier who died in Afghanistan in 2008 after his patrol was hit by an explosion.
“To be honest I’m pretty nervous about the marathon, but it will be an honour to run with Nicky’s name on my back,” Daniel said.
“It’s my first marathon and I think the conditions are likely to be very challenging, but I’ll keep focussed on why I’m doing it.”
Daniel, who teaches Sport to BTEC students, will travel alone to Sierra Leone on May 24. After the race he will spend a few days with Street Child visiting their projects.
He has previously worked in Asia teaching orphans for a charity, but said he’d been motivated to run the Sierra Leone marathon after watching Blood Diamond.
The 2006 film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was set in the Sierra Leone Civil War and covers issues including gems being used to fund arms deals, the gruesome atrocities committed during the conflict, and the use of child soldiers.
“Becoming a father makes you see things in a completely different light, because you think of your own children,” Daniel said.
“They’re a little worried about me going out to Africa, but they understand why I’m doing it and I think they’re quite proud of their dad.”
Daniel’s friend Nicky, who served with 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, was clearing an important area in September 2008 as part of a high-profile operation to move a turbine to the Kajaki Dam to provide electricity for the rest of Helmand when he was hit by an explosion. He was 26.
Since Nicky’s death, his father Dennis has helped organise a number of events to raise money for charities including the Afghanistan Trust and the Parachute Regiment Charity.
“Nicky was a really special guy, he was a great friend and one of those people everyone wants to be around,” Daniel said.
“I know he’d be proud of me for running this marathon.”
As well as the race, Daniel organised a college football tournament at Nescot on Wednesday, where students also sold home-made cakes to raise money for the cause.
Street Child charity estimates about 70% of the marathon course will be on rural roads, with the majority of these being mud tracks.
Temperatures are expected to be between 30 and 35C, with humidity of more than 70%.
Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries, with infant mortality among the highest internationally and rates of chronic malnutrition rising. The average life expectancy is 48 for men and 49 for women.
To donate to Daniel’s fundraising efforts, visit http://www.justgiving.com/Daniel-Raffo