Melanie Cowpland and her nine-year-old daughter Sofia, from Liphook, are planning a trip from Bow in East London (UK) to East London (South Africa) – on a motorbike with a sidecar. They will be raising money for the Adventure Autism Foundation, a charity they have set up to provide unique opportunities for children and adults with autism.
Sofia was diagnosed with autism when she was four, so this will be an epic journey of challenge and courage. The pair plan to start their adventure on the 14th November 2015 and expect to take nine months to cross Europe then Africa from north to south, covering approximately 20,000kms
Melanie, who is an experienced traveller, artist, author and spiritual coach, said: “I’ve always been an advocate for autism, in particular awareness of girls with autism, and I hope our journey will raise much-needed awareness of the need to grow and develop children with autism on a personal level so that they can realise their amazing potential.”
“I believe it will be an extraordinary adventure for Sofia. With autism, there is not only an inability to make sense of the external world but also the internal world. This challenge will be an opportunity for Sofia to make better sense of who she is, what she is capable of, and who she is in the context of this world.”
The journey will be tough: mum and daughter will have to cope with the cold of winter in central Europe and the heat of the deserts of Africa. Borders, language barriers and the rough state of African roads will be more challenges.
Melanie said: “I’m learning from scratch not only to ride a motorbike, but to know my way around the mechanics and maintenance. Confidence off road has also been an important feature of training to ensure that should conditions get difficult, I am able to get the bike through it.”
“The main challenge of all this, though, is going to be Sofia’s autism. This will be a long, noisy journey on some very bumpy terrain, so all her sensitivities will be challenged, not to mention her many fears of the big wide world. She will be receiving lots of preparation to ensure she knows exactly what it will be like to travel in the sidecar, and the various scenarios that she will be facing.”
Melanie added: “Sofia will be home-schooled during the journey to ensure that she is up to the same level as her peers when she returns to school in September 2016.”
Mum and daughter hope to raise awareness not only of autism, but of what is possible with autism. All funds will go to the Adventure Autism Foundation which will fund the trip, and which they have set up to give personal growth opportunities to children and adults who have been diagnosed with autism. This may include skills training for particular interests to help them find a career, or challenging experiences that will help them to discover who they really are and what they are capable of.
In support of their cause and their courage, Pure Hydration is providing Melanie and Sophia with water purification equipment for use throughout their journey. As the pair are sure to come across undrinkable water which they will need to make safe to drink, clean teeth and use for cooking, the purification equipment will ease health concerns as the mother, daughter team travel towards their goal. Please visit www.Purehydration.com for details.
Well-wishers can also find more information and keep up to date with the trip by clicking LIKE on Africa With Autism FaceBook page. Donations are very gratefully received through Virgin Money Giving (search – To Africa With Autism) £10 = 100km = Autism Awareness