From King's to Sierra Leone: On the Road with Kenn Bannister

Kenn's Arrival

You may have read about the preparations for King’s alumnus Lt Col Kenn Bannister’s (MA Defence Studies, 2010) fundraising adventure in honour of the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership (KSLP) in the Autumn/Winter 2017 issue of InTouch. Well, Kenn has now completed his epic journey, so we caught up with him again to ask about the experience. You can donate to Kenn’s appeal by visiting his Virgin Giving page.

Kenn had long dreamed of following the dirt trails of the old Paris-Dakar rally, which saw racers travel through treacherous conditions from France to the Senegalese capital. He said:

‘The long-distance desert-racing motorcycles with solo riders facing austere conditions for several hundred miles each day particularly caught my imagination.’

Planning for the trip started in 2015, and through his research Kenn learned about the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership.

‘I approached King’s College London with the offer of extending my original journey by 1,000 miles from Dakar to Freetown and changing my focus from Paris-Dakar into a fundraising expedition for the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership.’

Kenn set off on his trip from King’s Strand Campus on 16 February 2018. He rode his Yamaha XT660Z Ténéré motorcycle solo and unsupported for 16 days across nine countries, through Europe, North Africa and the Sahara Desert, to Freetown, Sierra Leone.

‘Having ridden between Paris and Dakar and finishing on the shores of Lac Rose – the finishing point just outside Dakar, it’s a brilliant feeling. I did it in 11 days and the whole journey from London to Freetown took 16 days of riding. Many of my adventure bike friends are incredibly envious.’

After arriving in Freetown, Kenn was invited to take a tour of the Connaught Hospital, he commented:

‘Every single KLSP volunteer at the Connaught Hospital is making a huge contribution that ultimately saves lives. With UK specialists working in partnership with their Sierra Leonean counterparts, the KSLP is clearly moving forward and enhancing the country’s medical services. But there is still much work to be done. I found the tour to be an incredibly humbling experience which made the 16 days of hard riding from London to Freetown worthwhile. I know that the money raised will have a positive and significant impact on the health of current and future Sierra Leoneans.’

Kenn aims to raise £50,000 for the King’s Sierra Leone Partnership. It costs approximately £10,000 to send one medical specialist to Sierra Leone for six months. Achieving this target will allow King’s Centre for Global Health to send up to five specialists to Freetown, to help train urgently-needed doctors, nurses and surgeons. You can donate to Kenn’s appeal by visiting his Virgin Giving page.

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