After 22 000 km of driving over some of the most taxing terrain in the world, 26-year-old spinally injured explorer, Colin Javens, has completed his Driving Home expedition from England to Cape Town, achieving a world first for his level of disability.
He was greeted by former Springbok Captain Morne du Plessis, Member of Parliament, Vincent Gore (also spinally injured) and several quadriplegic members of the QuadPara Association of South Africa. To date, Javens has raised almost R5 million for the Colin Javens Spinal Injury Trust, which will fund research into spinal cord repair and equipment and training to spinal recovery units in Africa. "Colin's achievement today is an inspiration to us all that we can achieve our dreams, regardless of our disability," said Ari Seirlis, National Director of the QuadPara Association of South Africa.
After suffering burns, substantial weight loss, and numerous pressure sores, a continual threat to the spinally injured, Colin arrived at Signal Hill on Monday afternoon 17 April for an emotional reunion with his supporters and family. Colin very nearly didn't make it to his target. Experts at Stoke Mandeville analysed his sores remotely and were concerned for his health. However, influenced by his determination, they approved medical restrictions to the final stages of his drive, limiting progress to one day driving followed by one day resting, a fresh diet and careful treatment. Colin is a quadriplegic following a diving accident, which saw him spend 364 days in Stoke Mandeville's National Spinal Injuries Unit and confinement to a wheelchair for life. He is unable even to sit up unaided, with his only movement below his shoulder being in his right wrist and left bicep. He captured the public's imagination by re-learning to drive a specially adapted 4x4, and then embarking on this challenge.
Colin at Table Mountain
After gathering a team of volunteers, including a volunteer doctor, navigator, communication specialist and personal assistant, he set out on his epic drive, starting from Stoke Mandeville, UK on 7 November 2005, across perilous terrain to reach his Cape Town destination.
But his trip through Africa has not been just about driving - aware that life expectancy of spinally injured people in Africa is a mere 2-3 years, he wanted to help and his entire aim has been to convey a message to the spinally injured that there is life and enjoyment beyond paralysis - and to raise money towards research into spinal cord repair and a high profile research facility.
He was all set to visit many facilities of the QuadPara Association of South Africa before his sores developed. Such is the following that Colin has had, that a key supporter of his epic drive and a Patron of his charities is former President FW de Klerk, as well as sportsmen Jonty Rhodes, Andrew Hudson and Francois Pienaar.
Thus a miniscule part of the gross £430,000 he has raised has provided wheelchairs, sewing machines, urinary equipment and training to the projects he has visited, which include The Kilimanjaro Association of the Spinally Injured in Tanzania; The Kenyan Paraplegic Organization, Nairobi, Disacare in Zambia and the QuadPara Association of South Africa.
Colin has just returned to the UK where he will embark on the next stage of his challenge - to motivate others in his situation to achieve their own dreams against the odds.
To donate to the work of The Colin Javens Spinal Injury Trust, please SMS to 38665 or visit www.drivinghome.co.uk.