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The grand tour

News Current affairs 26.06.2012 Duncan Roberts
Photo: UNICEF Luxembourg

Cycling: Gregor Graham, who once played 100 golf holes in one day, is up for a new challenge. The Scot will be cycling 444 km around Luxembourg’s border in just two days in aid of UNICEF.

Some might consider Gregor Graham to be, well, if not mad then at least a bit eccentric. Two years ago the Scot played 100 golf holes--every single one in the Grand Duchy--in just one day to raise money for UNICEF. This year his challenge is even more demanding.  “I grew up with golf, so the Luxembourg 100 challenge was very natural for me. But the concept of doing a challenge in one country was very interesting.

“So cycling around the whole of Luxembourg was a suitable idea for the next challenge.” The route around the border is not quite 444 km, but the itinerary has been created with a few forays into France, Germany and Belgium to make the distance up to that magic number.

But  the Eurocontrol employee is not so mad that he is doing the challenge alone--Graham will be joined by friends and family, a group of six he has labelled the “peloton d’amis”, and others in support vehicles. The route starts in Wintersdorf and ends some 240 km later in Eschdorf on Monday July 2, and returns to Wintersdorf, via a 204 km route, the following day.

Graham has also received support from Streff, which is providing the support vehicle, Asport, which has lent a bike to one of the participants coming from Oman (where Graham used to work), and Trisport in Echternach, which is supplying other cycling equipment.

Graham chose to support UNICEF because his wife, Elaine, has worked in child protection and his son is part of the International Peace Movement that also works with kids. “So UNICEF seemed to be a natural charity to support. We have had good support from the UNCIEF Luxembourg team.”

Graham has been training fairly intensively, especially as he has not really ridden road bikes. He put his new road bike on an indoor trainer throughout the winter to get used to the riding position, and since March he has been out on the roads five days a week, supplemented by a long six or seven-hour ride at the weekend.

The money he raises will be dedicated to UNICEF’s Believe in zero campaign, which aims to eradicate preventable child mortality around the world. UNICEF Luxembourg’s Paul Heber explains that the campaign was launched in, when preventable daily deaths amounted to 24,000 around the world.

“They were dying from disease that we can easily prevent. And doing so is easy and cheap, it is not a utopian goal,” says Heber. “We know where these children are and we can reach them.”

This year Luxembourg is focusing on this campaign in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world in which UNICEF has field officers and has had a presence for years. The campaign is all about helping people to help themselves--“that is the most important part of our work,” says Heber.

The simple process of digging a well with a pump and providing families with specially designed and locally built wheelbarrows that allow up to 80 litres of water to be transported has changed lives dramatically, allowing children to attend school and everyone to drink clean water.

The Luxembourg project in Burkina Faso also involves building latrines--“having separate latrines for boys and girls at school is one of those tiny things that is very important--promoting hygiene education and treating children with malnourishment.

The project in Burkina Faso is aimed at three million children and also 810,000 expectant mothers. “Because we target the years from nought to five, as that is when children are at their most vulnerable,” explains Heber.

The global campaign is already working--the mortality rate worldwide has been reduced to 21,000 a day--which is still far from the ultimate goal, but with the help of people like Graham, raising awareness and funds, the zero goal may well be achievable. “It is about child survival and achieving durable change.”

Contributions to the Believe in zero campaign on behalf of Graham and his team can be made via UNICEF Luxembourg’s secure online payment page on the organization’s website or via bank transfer to IBAN LU71 1111 2144 2050 0000 (keyword “Luxembourg 444 Challenge”).