The trip to Africa was a lifelong dream, a journey that Mark and Naomi Hughes, both 47, had wanted to make for as long as they could remember.
Naomi Hughes, an animal lover and professional dog groomer in Hamilton, and her husband, who works for the Department of Homeland Security, couldn't wait to see Africa's wildlife in Kenya and South Africa. After the couple's son and daughter graduated from high school in 2006, the family of four traveled on a 30-day safari.
What neither Naomi nor Mark Hughes had anticipated was that the life-changing effect of the trip would come not from the animals on the plains of the Serengeti, but from the people in the village of Karatu, in Tanzania. The safari, led by Overseas Adventure Travel in association with the Grand Circle Foundation, a nonprofit organization, included a stop at a school in Karatu.
The safari participants learned that the villagers often had only their feet for transportation -- whether fetching the day's water in the morning or walking to school. It posed a significant challenge: Students were often late because they were walking distances from two to 10 miles and would arrive exhausted. In a village without electricity, the long walk home also meant that they frequently arrived after dark and had no light to study under. And because the nearest secondary schools were even farther away, many children couldn't go at all.
The Hugheses were struck by the idea that something as simple as a bicycle could provide a big improvement in a student's quality of life. They mentioned to their guide that they would like to buy a bicycle for one of the children in the village, but their guide wasn't sure how to facilitate their request.
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