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From private equity to organizing a marathon in Sierra Leone

Esc member Lewis Aldridge shares his story about going from private equity to organizing a marathon in Sierra Leone. 

Two year’s ago today I decided to leave my job in private equity and go on a little adventure. As with all new challenges, half the fun comes from being totally absorbed by a new subject. I surrounded myself with people who could help, dived into books I could learn from, and searched for the best information there is online. Which is how I came across Escapethecity.

It was great to know there were others out there and that the big career change I was planning was a good idea. But perhaps even more important was being reminded to think about my dream over and over, time and time again. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day grind and to let weeks and weeks go past without moving forward. Escape’s regular emails and facebook updates helped to stop me from losing sight of what I wanted.

After reading stacks of information, there was one blog in particular, by Alastair Humphreys, which struck a cord. He was talking about his round-the-world cycling trip and how he chose not to fly across the Atlantic and instead hitched a lift on a yacht. At around the same time I found myself gazing at a map of the world and dreaming about travelling down through South America, across the Atlantic and back up through Africa – in kind of like a U shape. The idea of sailing between the two was the straw that broke the camels back. I was in love with the idea. The power of Google meant that within 0.013 seconds of typing in ‘Sail from Argentina to South Africa’, I had found a boat called Bark Europa. The next day I resigned from work and a few weeks later I landed at Quito airport to start my rather pompously titled trip, ‘Equator to Equator via Antarctica’.

A year of fun and adventure was followed by a sudden crash down to Earth when I arrived back in the UK. It was wonderful to see my friends and family again and to be back home. It was not so great to have absolutely no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I spent a couple of months trying to find the answer at the bottom of a pint glass and at one point considered going back to my old industry.

My  luck struck one spring day when I logged onto Escapethecity and there in front of me was my dream project – organising a marathon in Sierra Leone in order to raise money to help street children. If anyone had asked me what my ideal job would be, I probably would have said “something to do with Africa, something to do with marathon’s and something that helps children”. And there it was. The role was voluntary, but as it was only for six weeks I did my sums and realised I could cope with that.

It was the best six weeks work ever. I was previously quite cynical about voluntary work, thinking that my efforts should always be worth paying for. How wrong I was. There is something very pure about working solely for the love of it and not for any financial reward. I cannot recommend it more highly. Admittedly it’s not a long term solution for most people, but if you are going to do paid work for fifty years then surely it’s worthwhile spending at least a couple of months of it doing something that’s unpaid.

The marathon was a huge success. Over 170 runners flew over and collectively they raised over £300,000 for the charity Street Child of Sierra Leone. It didn’t take much effort to realise I wanted to stay involved and help organise next year’s race.

We have recently launched the 2013 version of the race which we hope will raise even more for the charity. If anyone would like to hear more then please visit www.sierraleonemarathon.com or come to our Street Child Party aboard HMS President on 6th November at 6:30pm.

Organising a marathon in West Africa is quite a challenge. We need help to find corporate sponsors, competitors and a celebrity or two to help raise profile. Is there anyone out there who would like to join the team and help achieve something truly incredible? If so, please get in touch at lewis@street-child.co.uk. You might be surprised what comes from it.

  • rainier layug

    i am rainier layug, from piscataway , new jersey…i just did a 50 miles run solo, last oct. 27, 2012, to raised money for the villages of sierra leonne, under abdulai’s project…we raised $2,500.00 for 6 families and for 2 houses…..i am planning to run 100 miles on march 30, 2013 , to raise money of $10,000.00 for 18 families and 6 houses…pls. i need help to look for a major sponsor for this run….i would appreciate, if i could get advise , to be able to do the run and raise the money…..god bless…sincerely, rainier layug