How we helped communities in Africa live a better and safer life
When Paul Hughes and Will Robertson joined Fowler Welch, little did they know how far it would take them. Quite literally.
When the opportunity arose to travel to Africa as part of Fowler Welch’s work with charity Transaid, the adventurous pair leapt at the chance.
“I’m a great believer that challenges which take you out of your comfort zone only help you to develop as a person, so I was looking forward to the road ahead,” says dad-of-three Paul, a driver trainer at Nuneaton.
The opportunity would take these two highly skilled members of our team 7,000 miles to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
Charity begins at home
Fowler Welch is no stranger to charitable work. In 2015 we raised more than £10,000 for children’s charity Wish Upon a Star and we have donated several thousands of pounds to organisations such as Macmillan, the NSPCC and Epilepsy Research UK.
One of our most successful collaborations to date has been with FareShare, with whom we joined forces in 2016 to help our customers redistribute their surplus food. We have now helped deliver more than 3 million meals to vulnerable people.
Home-grown charities have always been close to our heart, but this year we found a unique opportunity to demonstrate the social responsibility we’re so proud of in a way that goes far beyond just raising money.
Paying it forward
One of the many things we pride ourselves on our is our highly successful Driver Apprenticeship Scheme which has so far delivered a number of fully qualified LGV drivers permanently employed within the business; with more gaining their qualification every year. Not only does it make us an employer of choice, it helps create a culture that incentivises people to use their knowledge, skills and behaviours to benefit others.
When we heard about Transaid – and the work it does in Africa – we knew we’d found a charity that could benefit not just from funds, but from our skills and resources.
Transaid partners with local communities, governments, donors and organisations to facilitate the exchange of skills and knowledge around professional driver training, transport management systems and rural access to transport.
In doing so, it aims to solve two of the biggest transport challenges facing economically developing countries; road safety and access to vital services such as healthcare.
The importance of Transaid’s work cannot be underestimated. Drivers in African countries do not have access to the same training as those in the UK, who undergo rigorous tuition to ensure the highest safety standards.
The results can be devastating:
- Road deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are the third biggest killer behind HIV/AIDS and malaria1
- Around 75% of maternal deaths can be avoided through timely access to vital childbirth-related care2.
Time for action
Paul was selected for the Tanzania trip by a colleague who was aware of his numerous training qualifications and previous experience with delivering driver training from his role as Lead Driver Trainer in Nuneaton. Will was selected after winning the Fowler Welch Driver of the Year competition in 2018, having demonstrated ‘best in class’ qualities on safe and efficient driving as well as consistent ‘good driver behaviours’, which also saw him reach the final of the 2019 competition.
With mild apprehension about the task at hand, but an overwhelming sense of excitement, the pair touched down in Dar es Salaam on 26th May.
Paul’s first impression of Tanzania offers a glimpse into the challenges ahead of them: “The first thing that s
truck me was just how manic the roads were. I had researched conditions beforehand but it’s not until you see the standard of driving in person that you realise just how poor the overall driving is,” he says.
The country was just coming out of its rainy season, so in hot and humid conditions the pair set to work.
Making a difference
The biggest challenges Paul and Will faced were the huge volumes of traffic and the minibuses – known as dala-dalas – which have little regard for road safety as they compete with each other to pick up passengers from the roadside. Similarly, motorcycle riders would routinely run red lights, putting themselves and others at risk.
Although Paul and Will were a little taken aback by what they witnessed on the Tanzanian roads, they were keen to get stuck in and meet their students.
Will says: “The driver trainers we met were much more professional compared to other road users. They always travelled at the correct speed and did a really great job of staying calm in spite of the fact everyone else around them was beeping their horns and shouting.”
However, it soon became apparent that observation, signalling and road positioning were a concern. Paul and Will got to work immediately, training for two full weeks in order to help the drivers develop their skills.
Training was extensive:
- Coupling and uncoupling to trailers
- The role of banksman
- Proper reversing procedures
- Fuel-efficient driving
- Driving at night
- Basic first aid
- Adverse weather conditions.
These subjects were all completely new to the Tanzanian students.
But Paul and Will’s commitment and dedication paid off: at the end of the two weeks the drivers showed considerable improvement.
Will says: “We both found them an absolute joy to train and formed a close working relationship with them all. The feedback we received back from them was very positive, which was hugely rewarding.”
But the ultimate goal was not simply to make the group better drivers. It was to pass on training skills that would enable the students to train other professional drivers.
This has the potential to make a real difference not only to drivers in the area, but the wider community, by improving access to healthcare and the bus system that so vitally connects communities and helps people get to their jobs.
Paul adds: “I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Tanzania. It helped me develop my own skills even further and I’d jump at the chance to go back.”
At Fowler Welch we work tirelessly behind the scenes to support our charity partners and everyone plays an important role. Sometimes it’s hard to see how individual contributions make a difference, but this project is a great example of how our skills can have a huge impact on individuals. More importantly, it shows how sharing them with others starts a ripple effect that makes a very real difference to entire communities.
We will continue to support Transaid’s important work throughout 2019.