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Hampstead hikers to trek 86 miles in support of African maternity care

08:00 09 April 2014

Left to right: Caroline Marden, Beena Raja, Nancy Durrell McKenna, Gayle Morrison, Ann James, Jane Naylor and Indrani Mukerjee.

Left to right: Caroline Marden, Beena Raja, Nancy Durrell McKenna, Gayle Morrison, Ann James, Jane Naylor and Indrani Mukerjee.

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Hampstead Heath has become a training ground for a group of hikers preparing to trek 86 miles to support mothers and babies in Africa.

Nancy Durrell McKenna, 64, founder and director of charity SafeHands for Mothers, will set off on a six-day walk from Ilkley, West Yorkshire, to Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, in June.

The mother-of-two, of Fitzjohn’s Avenue, Hampstead, is part of a group of 30 fundraisers taking on the challenge to raise money for SafeHands for Mothers, which aims to improve maternal and newborn health in Africa.

Ms Durrell McKenna has been preparing for the trek with friends and supporters on Hampstead Heath and is appealing for more people to get involved.

“Our vision is a world where no woman dies in pregnancy and childbirth and we want to achieve this through making films,” said Ms Durrell McKenna.

“We make documentaries and raise awareness of issues such as female genital mutilation, Aids and family planning and we make films that inspire health workers.

“I have realised the power the visual has: the power to advocate for change, the power to raise awareness of the big issues that face mothers and newborns, it’s the power to make a difference.”

Using her skills as a photographer and film-maker, Ms Durrell McKenna set up the charity in 2003 and began shooting films to be shown in communities across Africa.

The charity works with a number of high-profile organisations, including UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, and distributes its educational films to African health workers who use solar-powered media players, carried in backpacks, to show the films to communities.

“In these countries we are finding huge illiteracy so the way to raise awareness and educate is through film,” said Ms Durrell McKenna. “These films are all done in their languages.”

The charity recently received a £500,000 Comic Relief grant to support its work in 81 Ethiopian villages over the next three years.

In 2009, Ms Durrell McKenna and friends raised £60,000 with an 86-mile trek from Triacastela to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

They are hoping to exceed that total with this latest challenge, which will also mark the end of the charity’s 10th anniversary celebrations.

“We are appealing to people who want to come out and support us and walk with us,” said Ms Durrell McKenna. “The ultimate purpose is the much-needed funding that every charity is looking for.”

For more information about the charity trek and to sign up or donate, call SafeHands for Mothers on 020 7433 0792 or e-mail lucy@safehands.org

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