We are back in the USA for the next few months for several reasons:
As you might recall from reading our blog posts, Lana and I received our mandatory yellow fever vaccinations in Casablanca, Morocco at the Pasture Institute. (Without a yellow fever vaccination card we couldn’t enter some countries that we were going to ride through). The Institut Pasteur Du Maroc is the only medical facility in Northern Africa that the CDC recommends for vaccinations. You may also recall reading in our blog that both Lana and I had some serious adverse side effects after receiving these vaccinations. And ever since then my health has been in a serious and rather rapid decline. The symptoms are classic for long term adverse side effects from yellow fever vaccinations. (It is NOT terminal and it is NOT contagious~!!!!!) So we are back in the USA to get me healed up before we return to Africa....and I am already improving in just the two weeks we have been here...Praise GOD~!!!!
We are out of money and we had to come back to the USA to raise some additional funds to continue our mission.
We have been given an opportunity to expand our mission in Africa by “branching off” as it were, into an additional humanitarian venture…..while at the same time making some additional money for the Travessilla Expedition (TravEx) to keep going. So, before you jump to any conclusions PLEASE hear us out by reading this entire blog post.
A Very Long Story Short:
After a trip to the Congo in early 2009 we started trying to find a way to help keep little kids in Africa from being kidnapped from villages by terrorists and sold as sex slaves into Europe and the Mideast, or used as child soldiers by their abductors, and sold as child soldiers to other terrorist groups. After some research and contacting our intelligence assets in the region we discovered that the same terrorist groups that kidnapped these kids out of villages were also the poachers that were killing over 30,000 elephants every year, along with rhinos. These terrorist-poachers then sell the little kids that they kidnapped to sex slave traffickers, and the elephant tusks and rhino horns to Chinese buyers. That is how they finance their mayhem on various African governments, other terrorist groups, and their barbaric wholesale slaughter of villages.
So who are these terrorists? The Janjaweed, the LRA, Mai-Mai, and others. With only a cursory search of the internet you can read about the LRA and others, (or on our web site at www.africanwildlifeinitiative.org)
Because it is easier to get funding to capture poachers and save elephants than it is to save children from the unspeakable crime of child sex slavery (and yes…that is a sad but true fact) we launched a web site, African Wildlife Initiative, (www.africanwildlifeinitiative.org) and started contacting conservation organizations, various NGO’s, and African governments to see what we could do….where we could help. We thought it would be easy to find a place to fit in….…it wasn’t.
But through our efforts and the help of others, word slowly started to get out about us. Then about three years ago (almost five years after we started) we were contacted by a European Commission supported organization, the Ecofaune Project. They asked us to provide air support for their counter poaching operations located in a 107,800 square kilometer (41,600 square mile) region of the northern and eastern part of an African nation, the Central African Republic (CAR).
Of course we were very excited about this because by going after these terrorist-poachers we would also be saving the lives of innocent little kids from the most evil crime in the world, child sexual slavery …..and that is a double win deal if there ever was one~!!!
So we immediately started negotiations with this organization…..now remember, this was over three years ago~!!!
After many false starts over the course of the first two + years of talks and negations everything just ground to a halt. (A large part of this was due to a coupe in CAR and the resulting civil war that lasted for about 16 months.)
For the next year we waited and waited….. and nothing happened. I tried to make things happen…..and nothing happened. We thought that the deal was dead in the water. So we gave up on it and Lana and I later launched the Travessilla Expedition (TravEx) which you are all so familiar with…..another way to help kids. We got on our motorcycles and rode out of Alaska headed for Europe, then Africa and beyond.
But sometimes GOD has different timing than we do……… GOD is like that.
At about the time we rode into Spain on our motorcycles we were informed be email that the Ecofaune Project wanted us in CAR…yesterday. Well, after as many false starts as we had already experienced we didn’t get very excited about the prospects of putting a deal together.
So after much thought, prayerful consideration, and consulting with a couple of our most trusted advisers, we decided that we were not going to just jump on the next airplane and fly from Spain to CAR, spending money we could not afford to spend.
The Central African Republic was a country that we were already going to ride our bikes right past the border of anyway…….so we all agreed that Lana and I would continue or mission with TravEx….and at the same time we would also take a “little” side trip into CAR and see if could help Ecofaune, and maybe find some sick kids to treat while we were there. Now bear this in mind as you continue reading: CAR is not quite yet out of a civil war…there is still some very real and very serious fighting going on from time to time…so it is not a country that tourists ride motorcycles into for a visit, and have not for many years.
So we informed the Ecofaune Project of what we were going to do, about when we would be there on our motorcycles, and that they would have to wait until we got there…which they did.
We crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on a ferry and rode into Africa.
About three + months of hard riding later, we rode into the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, hot and tired; I was sick; we were starting to be very concerned about our finances, or lack thereof; and in all of that we wondered if GOD was opening a door for us here….or we were just headed down a rabbit trail.
We were in CAR for 22 days. Most of that time was spent traveling through CAR by aircraft, in four wheel drive vehicles, on motorcycles, and on foot. A lot of that travel was in Ecofaune's Area of Operations (AO) located deep in Muslim rebel held territory in the northern part of the country. As per local protocol (read: to keep from being shot) we met with the top rebel leaders at their heavily armed compound, and the Muslim’s Sultan and their Prophet for northern CAR. We had to inform them why we were there. We spent a lot of our time with Ecofaune’s Rangers and their other personnel, on the ground, traveling through the Ecofaune AO, located in this rebel held region of CAR. (Rebel held means that there is no functioning Central African Republic government…the region is lawless. And even though there is a small UN presence there, believe me when I tell you that the rebel group controls the entire region).
Back in Bangui we negotiated contract terms and conditions with Ecofaune’s manager, Mr. Antonio Pelosi. And we are excited to say that we came away with a preliminary agreement to provide air support for Ecofaune Rangers~!!!! Now we are only waiting for the European Commission legal department to approve what we and Mr. Pelosi agreed to. Needless to say we are thrilled in the very least.
Now if you only get one take away from your reading here….let it be this. Our mission is still the same…we are saving children’s lives. We have just added another facet to it…an extremely important and crucial facet. We are saving little kids from the unspeakable life of being a child sex slave or child soldier.
Through that we will be able to make some money to help further fund TravEx.
And rest assured, TravEx still treat kids with dysentery and provide them with clean water to drink.
So there you have it…the brief thumb nail sketch or what we are going to do in conjunction with our current mission. Money that we make from this will be used to help continue TravEx. Look at it like this… ….Lana and I have financed 95+ percent of TravEx out of our own pockets by selling everything that we own to make it happen. We are out of money and we have nothing left to sell. While we very much appreciate the donations that we have received, it is simply not enough to continue. To date no one has stepped up to the plate to fully fund TravEx. But we are not going to throw in the towel and quit….not by a long shot~!!!! What we ARE going to do is this: Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.
I will leave you with two profound quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his biography: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice; we are to drive a spoke into the wheel.”