GM Daewoo to make a substantial donation to SOS Children’s Villages
Author Richard Meredith (54) and university graduate Phil McNerney (25) today jumped into a car more often used for the weekly trip to the supermarket and set off on an historic 20-country, 10,000-mile charity drive to South Korea. A near-standard 1.4-litre Daewoo Kalos will carry the intrepid pair through some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain and unstable countries.
"The next 80 days could be quite exciting," said Richard, as they left GM Daewoo headquarters in Luton. "Our route across Europe and Asia covers countries and regions hit by earthquakes, wars, terrorist attacks, nuclear scares and the SARS epidemic."
Richard, a divorced father-of-two from Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, dreamed up the trip when he was considering ways of getting to the Chinese capital of Beijing for a six-month university teaching assignment starting in September. A veteran of a year-long world back-packing odyssey and other adventures, he turned down the comfort of a modern jet.
"I drive a Daewoo, the company’s UK base is near where I live, and the worldwide headquarters are in Seoul, just a hop from China," he said. "Added to that I was confident no-one had ever before attempted such a journey in a family hatchback. I approached GM Daewoo and they agreed to provide a car."
Although basically standard, the Kalos has certain modifications, including strengthened suspension and underside protection, which are vital to ensure its survival on some of the world’s most unfriendly road surfaces. It also has enlarged fuel capacity. A state-of-the-art satellite communications system will enable Richard and Phil, of St Helens, Merseyside, to indicate their precise location at any time. They will use a tri-band telephone and laptop to send home regular progress reports.
The trip is not solely a means – however unusual – of getting from Luton to Seoul. It is also a fund-raising exercise for the international child welfare organisation, SOS Children’s Villages, with which GM Daewoo has close ties.
SOS Children’s Villages has no fewer than 439 custom-built villages across the world. Richard and his co-driver will be visiting a number of them in Europe as well as in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and South Korea, where GM Daewoo executives will make a substantial donation to the organisation.
Before being waved off by GM Daewoo UK Managing Director Andy Carroll, both Richard and Phil admitted to a certain amount of nervousness. "We have complete confidence in the Kalos, but it’s the human and geographical elements we need to worry about," laughed Richard. "It is literally a trip into the unknown, but we are determined to prove you can do it in a Daewoo."Published 10 June 2003