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James Heaney

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Children don’t start wars. But their homes, schools, families and communities are torn apart by war. These are the very things children rely on for protection and the chance to build a life free from poverty.

War Child is a small international charity that protects children from the brutal effects of war and its consequences. They are currently working in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Uganda, on the ground, supporting the most vulnerable children that are too often forgotten in the aftermath of conflict - former child soldiers, children living on the streets, children in prison and girls at risk of rape or violence.

War Child may be a small charity but they’ve got big ambitions. Their staff are living and working in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones helping thousands of kids rebuild their lives.

In May this year James Heaney is hoping to become the youngest person in Britain to do a solo circumnavigation of the world by motorcycle in aid of War Child. He will be riding his Suzuki V-Strom 20,000 miles through 13 countries from Cheltenham, England going into Europe, through Bulgaria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia to Vladivostok where he’ll get a ferry over to Japan. From Tokyo he’ll fly over to San Francisco, follow Highway 1 south into Los Angeles, then along Route 66, finishing in Chicago 100 days later - and yes, it is a homage to Long Way Round, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s epic challenge in 2004, in which they biked 20,000 miles in 115 days.

Ewan and Charlie crossed 12 countries and 19 time zones. Riding their BMW GS R1200s, they crossed Europe, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to ride the Road of Bones through Siberia, over to Alaska, through Canada, North America and finished in New York. The Long Way Round journey would challenge their view of the world and also test their physical endurance. It became a TV programme watched and loved by millions of people including James.

James also cites the book Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon as another of his influences. Ted rode his bike around the world in 1977 at the age of 46 and then did it all again in 2001 when he was 70!

James, as he puts it, was ‘born at a very young age in Cheltenham’, where he went to Pitville School. He left to go to college at GlosCat where he studied for a BTec National Diploma in Music Technology. This reflected his interest in music and he plays piano and is fairly well known around the Cheltenham music scene, usually by his stage name Jimmy Fingers and his nick name Rabs.

James currently works as a bus driver but used to work in a nursery with children for two years, hence his interest in raising money for a children’s charity. He has always been keen on motorised vehicles. His first experience on a motorcycle was at the tender age of nine, riding pillion on a friend of his Dad’s BMW touring bike and the interest in riding them since then has been simmering away in the back of his mind.

At the age of 14 he rode a moped for the first time in France, much to the annoyance of the gendarmerie! Following that experience he never rode properly until he was 23. He decided to take his CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) on a 125cc and immediately he loved it. He took his full test and bought a Suzuki SV650. He was absolutely enthralled by it and after a couple of weeks he went on to take his first adventure over to France for the weekend.

Unfortunately though, after about a month of owning it, he was knocked off it and broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg, writing off the bike in the process. He was immobilised for six months, just stuck in bed watching TV. He watched re-runs of Long Way Round and the 2007 follow up programme Long Way Down and began to be inspired. Initially he was fearful of getting back onto a motorcycle, but he desperately wanted to. ‘I wanted to try and face my fear head on, and so the ridiculously ambitious project One Route was born.’

Along the way James will be encountering many problems from the tedious bureaucratic issues, the obvious breakdowns and the road conditions, which although on the map it says some of the roads are main highways, they’re in fact dirt tracks. Another major obstacle in Eastern Russia in particular, will be the fast flowing rivers from the melted ice and snow from the winter that he will inevitably have to cross. You can check out James’ route and the areas he is going to be passing through on his website http://www.oneroute.org.uk/. His travels will be documented on a blog and video diaries and these, together with images and more details of his epic adventure, will be used to form a book which will be put together following his return.

If you wish to support James on his trip, you can sponsor him by visiting the website and following the link to his Just Giving page here http://www.oneroute.org.uk/donate.asp. You can also donate in the Stagecoach Travel Shop on the High Street in Cheltenham. James is currently organising events in the town to raise funds – you will see him and his Suzuki V-Strom in The Brewery on 7 May in the afternoon so say hello and show your support by making a donation towards this worthy cause.

James added, ‘It would be a great achievement and I would be so pleased to see the sponsorship for this fantastic cause reach a five figure sum.’

Along with donations James is also looking for local companies to sponsor the project.