Explorers Connect

Lands End to John O'Groats by hand cycle

CommunityJames Hipkiss

Barry Funnell, who lives in Clapham village in Bedfordshire, is currently training for a unique and epic 23 day journey which will start on 8 August. He will be hand-cycling 1000 miles from Land's End to John o'Groats to bring the needs of marginalised and largely illiterate people groups into focus, and to raise funds for language development, translation and literacy work.

It is a staggering fact that there are still 2200 people groups whose language has not yet been standardised and in many cases not yet even been written down. Barry was paralysed from the chest down when he fell from a three story building 29 years ago. This happened while he was a 19 year old second year dental student. Against the odds, he went on to qualify as a dentist in a wheel chair. Although traumatic, the accident was a turning point for the better in his life. He developed a passion for life and for the less advantaged peoples in the world. He gave up his lucrative career in dentistry to go to Malawi, Africa, to do language development and translated the Bible for the Sena people in a record ten years.

This was despite Barry having over 20 bouts of Malaria causing serious kidney damage, and the kidnapping of his 14 month old son, who was dramatically recovered after 3 days. Over 50 literacy centres are now operating in Malawi, teaching hundreds of Sena people each year to read and write due to his efforts. He then worked in Tanzania for five years, where he started a further ten language development and translation projects. Barry has always loved sport, and has not let his disability get the better of him! He learned to play golf from his wheel chair, and won the South Africa disabled open championships twice and also the disabled Masters competition in the UK last year. He also enjoys kayaking and swimming and has successfully completed the Midmar Mile in South Africa twice (the biggest open race in the world). He has recently taken up hand cycling, and reckons cycling up long steep inclines by hand is the hardest he has ever worked, but he is readying himself to take on the daunting challenge of hand-cycling up the hills of Cornwall, the Lake district and the Scottish highlands to cover the length of the UK in a bid to raise funds for a Charity called The Word for the World. Barry has been working for this charity for the past twenty years, and is currently the CEO of TWFTW UK.

Their core activity is to train and empower nationals to do literacy and translation work for people belonging to these 2200 marginalised groups. Barry is appealing to the British public to get behind his epic journey. He says we take the use of our limbs for granted, but even more so, as English speakers, our wealth of literature and limitless opportunities to education!! Should we not be willing to help people in these 2200 marginalized groups who are ?disabled? through poverty, illiteracy and lack of education, get a better chance in life? He will be speaking at various venues along his route about his life experiences and his work, and is inviting people to ride with him on either side of the villages he will be passing through. Each of us has our own particular mountain or challenge to overcome, but through determination and passion, we can not only achieve our own dreams, but also be involved in helping others, perhaps less privileged than ourselves, achieve their dreams! This fund raising venture, called Wheels for the Word, aims to raise £100,000, which will enable The Word for the World to start five new literacy and translation projects in Africa or India. A Press conference will take place at in the Eating Room, Moggerhanger Park, Bedford, MK44 3RW at 10am on Wednesday 20 July 2011 as part of a media launch for Barry?s 1000 mile hand cycle ride which starts on 8 August 2011.

Directions can be found on their website http://www.moggerhangerpark.com/. Barry will arrive in his hand cycle at 9.45am and be available for filming with Moggerhanger house in the background, and then give a short talk and be available for questions until around 11am. ?Moggerhanger Park is one of the top heritage attractions in Bedfordshire designed by Sir John Soane in 1792 to be a country home and landscaped by Humphry Repton (the only example of this architectural combination in the whole country). As well as a premier business conference and wedding venue it is now home to a number of major national Christian social and educational charities. Barry Funnell has been a friend of Moggerhanger Park over many years and the Preservation Trust are delighted to make the Park's facilities available for training and planning meetings for the 'Land End to John O Groats challenge'. In particular Barry's emphasis on learning and literacy for those who are most in need perfectly fits the objects and ethos of the Moggerhanger Park family. By Timothy Vince, Chief Executive, Moggerhanger Park.

Barry's 1000 mile hand cycle ride will have daily reports and updates, photos and video clips on http://wheelsfortheword.posterous.com/, as well as his facebook page http://www.facebook.com/barry.funnell