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Intrepid young Devon woman completes JOGLE for pioneering project

LAND'S END, 5 July 2010. An intrepid young woman from Exeter has completed an epic journey. Tess Shellard has trekked 1293 miles over 54 consecutive days from John o'Groats to Land's End - the entire length of the UK - to raise £10,000 for a network of family planning clinics in remote villages in southern Madagascar.

 

Tess, 27, has been feeling the physical demands of covering as much as 35 miles per day. The energy requirements of the challenge required her to eat continuously. Despite this she has lost weight considerably and her clothes are hanging off her. She writes in her blog: "After a couple of weeks of being really ragged, my feet are now finally healing well. I seem to be developing a layer of leather a scud missile would find difficult to penetrate." Tess has previously hiked and trekked on five continents, but this journey has been her biggest challenge to date. After starting her trek on May 13th, she has walked continuously without taking a day off before completing the journey at Land's End on 5th July.

 

Tess was moved to take on this fundraiser when she heard of the groundbreaking approach marine conservation charity Blue Ventures is taking to support a rural African community.Tess said: "It's impossible not to get swept up in the excitement of the work they're doing." She explains: "At first glance it's surprising for a conservation charity to be setting up clinics but it makes perfect sense. Fish stocks are being depleted and the reefs damaged in large part because the fishermen are struggling to provide enough food in the midst of a population explosion."

Before Blue Ventures developed this project, villagers living in and around the village of Andavadoaka had no access to sexual and reproductive health services. They were struggling to find enough food to feed their children and keen to have smaller families.

"Conservation work on the reef would be doomed to fail without supporting the villagers to overcome the underlying cause of their crisis. By providing family planning to those who want it, and education on conserving their coastal resources, the community now has a chance of being able to feed itself for generations to come."

Given the potential impact of the Blue Ventures project, the funding needs are very small. The clinics immediately improve health care for families and provide careers for local people involved in delivering services. Most importantly for Tess, the project helps to empower the local women. "I hope I can raise as much money as possible to help ensure Blue Ventures can continue its inspiring work and hopefully take it to the many other villages that would benefit from this sensitive and intelligent approach", she says.

Blue Ventures believes that with the right knowledge, developing coastal communities can live in harmony with their marine environments. Their pioneering, integrated approach to conservation and sexual and reproductive health enables far more effective achievement of the project's objectives than could be achieved if these projects were carried out in isolation.

You can sponsor Tess and read about her trek at www.themightyjogle.co.uk.

 

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Notes to editors

* High resolution photographs of both the project and Tess are available on request.

* Tess regularly hikes in and around Devon and despite loving her exotic treks abroad she is very keen to explore the rest of the UK. She trained for the trek with plenty of long runs and hikes. Tess was joined by fellow hikers fundraising for St Margaret's Hospice in Somerset and volunteers who drove a support vehicle to regularly meet up with them.

* She was also accompanied by a dog called Midge who in turn attracted the unwanted attention of a herd of cattle on one leg of the journey.

* The last leg of the journey, taking place on July 5, stretches 24 miles from St Ives to Land's End. Tess has a gadget to track mileage, speed and altitude allowing her to monitor her daily mileage very accurately. It makes a sound with every mile made.

* Madagascar has one of the world's fastest growing populations, with an average fertility rate of over 5 births per woman and nearly half of the country's population currently under 15 years of age. Only 1 in 5 women in union has access to contraception despite government programmes to promote family planning.

* In the remote coastal regions where Blue Ventures operates, access to sexual and reproductive health services is even more difficult. As a result, girls often have their first child as young as 11 and women are having up to 16 children. Infant and maternal mortality rates are very high. The rapid growth of coastal populations, whose doubling time is approximately 10-15 years, poses a severe threat to the future sustainability of the country's extensive coral reefs and other marine habitats, upon which the livelihoods, culture and future economic wellbeing of coastal communities depend.

* Blue Ventures provides a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health service for 26 villages in the region, and a pioneering programme of social marketing and community education. The organisation is raising awareness about sexual and reproductive health, helping couples to adopt safer sexual practices, and enabling couples to plan their families.

* Since the project started the proportion of couples using hormonal contraception in the target region has increased from 8.3% to 31.7% and the use of condoms has gone up eightfold.

For further information or to arrange an interview with Tess Shellard, please contact: +44 (0)7980 919417 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.