Tuesday, September 23, 2014

UNICEF: Flying High for Kids

Before heading off on an arduous, four year journey through over 100 countries, I asked New Zealander Andrew Parker why he wanted to put himself through such a tough challenge. Apparently, a trip like this has been on his mind for a very long time: “Since my early teens I wanted to travel the world with a balloon, and to do it for a good cause,” he said.

“I knew what I wanted to do since I was six. I saw a balloon fly over my house during a festival and that was it for me, I decided that was what I wanted to do”.

For 14 years Andrew has been commercially flying hot air balloons throughout the world, and has decided to use his passion to inspire children and to promote UNICEF’s work.

It was clear that his enthusiasm for flying is strong and he still carries some of that 6 year old Andrew inside of him, remembering how seeing a hot air balloon fly over his house for the first time had inspired him. Now he wants to share that sense of enthusiasm with children all around the world.

Andrew launched his ‘Flying High for Kids’ initiative several months ago but admits that, after a brief pause to earn some money in France to help him self-finance the trip, things are now going to get a lot more tough.

Living out of his truck, he will stop in hundreds of locations and inflate his balloon. Logistically it’ll be a challenge, and the long drives on often difficult roads via Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East will be tiring to the extreme.

But, he says, it’s already been a memorable experience for him.

“I remember the kids in Cambodia looking at the balloon in awe because they’d never seen anything like it, and it put a big smile on their faces. I’m really sharing my passion with the kids and I hope it’s inspiring them to follow their dreams like I did,” said Andrew.

Andrew then set-off on a three hour drive from Vientiane to Vang Vieng, and today he inflated his UNICEF-branded hot air balloon, to the amazement of many school children present. The spectacle was also used to promote UNICEF Lao PDR’s television show ‘My Village’.

Follow Andrew’s Flying High for Kids Facebook page to see if he’s coming your way!

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