Outside the Box: Mike Krefta

Robert Hiscox, knowing I had an interest in charitable work – I'd already been involved in numerous charitable activities at Hiscox including the Three Peaks Challenge, canoeing in the South of France, and a survival week in the wilds of Scotland – invited me along to a lunch he was hosting with Baroness Cox of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust. I rashly asked her if there was anything I could do to help the charity, and she mentioned that there was this particular project in South Sudan...

Which is how, in 2010, I found myself driving a heavily modified Land Rover packed full of much needed equipment – including a generator, school equipment and, oddly enough, some golf clubs – to the remote Marol Academy in South Sudan.

Navigating difficult terrain

Go to the next big tree

I'd already been planning a work sabbatical involving a 20,000 mile drive from the UK to Cape Town so a diversion to South Sudan didn't seem too onerous. I perhaps hadn't factored in the lack of roads or navigation, which usually entails stopping to ask a local who will probably direct you by pointing to “the next big tree” on the horizon.

An additional complication was South Sudan fighting a war of independence, meaning that land mines littered the roadside – changing a wheel on the roadside was very perilous – and armed militias roamed the countryside. The physical nature of driving in the difficult terrain was another aspect I hadn't expected and at times it wasn’t possible to do much more than a few kilometres a day. But I eventually made it safely to the Marol Academy after just over five weeks with our cargo intact.

It’s the advocacy which can give people a voice and delivers much greater value in the longer term than simply donating aid.

The Marol Academy sounds sophisticated but in fact its 'classrooms' are simply spaces under trees and there is just one brick building – the only one in the village. It is a school originally designed for 200 children but 600 turned up when it opened, some children walking tens of kilometres to get there. It was an inspiring place to visit and, despite the challenges in getting there, the warm welcome I received made it very worthwhile. My golf coaching improved too!  

A trustee for HART

On my return from Africa, I was invited to become a trustee for HART. It's a wonderful charity that operates in areas too remote for other aid agencies, applying a twin-track programme of international advocacy and aid to some of the world’s most oppressed people in countries such as Burma, India and locations throughout Africa. It’s the advocacy which can give people a voice and delivers much greater value in the longer term than simply donating aid.

My work with HART – helping to professionalise the charity – has helped me expand my horizons and I get a real sense of worth from knowing that I’m helping to make a real difference. Of course, I also love to travel and next up is the July Greenland expedition for charity – pack rafting the Fjords and traversing the mountains of Southern Greenland.