Daewoo Challenge Will Aid International Children's Charity

British adventurers to drive 10,000 miles from London to Seoul in a Daewoo Kalos

Two Britons are to raise funds for the international charity SOS Children’s Villages in a gruelling 10,000-mile drive from the UK to Seoul in South Korea.

The intrepid pair – author Richard Meredith and university graduate Phil McNerney – will be driving through some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain and dangerous territory in a near-standard 1.4-litre Daewoo Kalos.

Richard conceived the plan when he was considering ways of getting to the Chinese capital of Beijing for a six-month university teaching assignment starting in September. "I drive a Daewoo, the company’s UK base in Luton is near to where I live, and the worldwide headquarters are in Seoul, just a hop from China," he said.

"I approached GM Daewoo in Switzerland and they agreed to provide a car, which will have certain modifications, such as strengthened suspension and larger fuel tank, to make it suitable for such a challenging journey."

Richard was keen to raise money for charity during the trip, and GM Daewoo proposed SOS Children’s Villages, with whom the company has close ties.

"I was delighted to agree, as children’s causes are close to my heart, and especially with so many of them innocently suffering from the effect of wars and conflicts in our world today," said the 54-year-old father of two.

Richard and his co-driver will drive through as many as 20 countries, and will visit SOS Children’s Villages in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and South Korea. At journey’s end they will be joined by GM Daewoo executives to hand over a donation to the charity.

SOS Children’s Villages was founded in 1949 by Austrian Hermann Gmeiner, whose initial dream was to provide war orphans and abandoned children with a safe and loving village environment. After the Korean War, the SOS Children’s Village in Daegue, South Korea, was the first to be built outside Europe, in 1963.

Gmeiner’s dream has become the most successful reality, for the charity now has no fewer than 439 custom-built villages across the world, making it one of the world’s largest child-care organisations.

The UK base is in Cambridge, from where Chief Executive Daniel Fox expressed his pleasure at the forthcoming journey. "I am very pleased that Richard and Phil have chosen to support our charity," he said. "It sounds a fascinating and exciting challenge which I believe will capture the imagination of many of our representatives around the world."

Richard and 25-year-old Phil set off from GM Daewoo at Luton on 9 June, and will be aiming to complete the journey in 80 days, à la Jules Verne.

"I am nervous and excited in equal measure," said Richard as he prepared for the trip. "But Phil and I are really up for it, and we’re confident the Kalos will be too."

Published 20 May 2003 Melanie Carter

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