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Trip changes Axminster fundraiser’s outlook
Monday, 15 October 2012
A YOUNG Axminster man says the generosity of people in one of the world’s poorest countries is second to none.
“They have so little but they give so much. They are so generous and caring even if they don't have anything. They are richer than us in so many ways,” Martin Painter said of the people of Burkina Faso.
Martin spent about three months in the African country and was hit by malnutrition and malaria along the way – losing about three quarters of a stone.
He went there as a volunteer for United Nations Association of International Service, a charity which protects and promotes the rights of marginalised people in developing countries.
Martin had planned his visit for some time and became known in and around Axminster for his fundraising initiatives, which included a cycle ride from Land’s End to Axminster.
He spent most of his time in and around the capital, Ouagadougou. After an initial period comprising basic language lessons, a cultural introduction and safety briefings, he was placed with Tigoung Nonma – a co-operative of disabled artisans.
Lodgings were very basic and Martin had to support his mosquito net with chairs and it took a week until a bed was bought. Martin said that food was far from varied, the staples available being bread, egg, chicken and fish. As a result, he suffered from malnutrition and was also struck by malaria despite taking the correct precautions.
He said: “People slate the NHS and take it for granted. But when you are ill in a different country for so long, you really appreciate it.”
Another experience was using local taxis. Recalling the first time he got into one, he said: “It was like the most shabby automobile ever. I thought, this is so unsafe. There were no interiors and no seatbelts.”
He lived to tell the tale, however, and it was also a taxi that provided another lasting memory. One day Martin travelled by taxi and left “an expensive coat” behind when getting out of the car. But about a week later the taxi driver spotted Martin in the street, pulled up and said: “I’ve got something in the boot for you.”
He described his trip as “soul-touching” and said it had changed his perspective on the world.
“As soon as I got back, I filled a suitcase of things and gave it to a charity shop. Money isn’t everything.”
He hopes to carry on volunteering and helping poor nations and their people one way or another. When asked if he can see a major change to the overall situation, including poverty and infrastructure, in Burkina Faso, he replied: “No one person can achieve what is needed. The only way is if we make a change there.”
He stressed that means by sharing the wealth of food and money in the developed world. Details can be found at www.justgiving.com/martinafricasupport12.
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