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Bike courier heading to Tanzania

New Zealand Press Association (NZPA), December 23, 2008

Auckland bike courier Jolene O'Connor is hoping for something a bit different for Christmas this year.

No flash gifts -- what she really wants is to reach her $11,500 fundraising target before the New Year when she heads off to Tanzania to volunteer for eight months with charitable organisation Students Partnership Worldwide (SPW).

Ms O'Connor, 27, will live in a rural community where there is likely to be no electricity or running water. She will work with a school to implement a youth and health programme, dealing with issues such as teenage pregnancy, early marriages, HIV/AIDS, drug and alcohol abuse and child abuse.

She needs $11,500 to cover the cost of her trip, training, health insurance, as well as support for SPW and the programmes it runs throughout Africa.

"The money raised will be used directly to support my work and projects in the village. The more money raised, the more can be done to help rural communities to live instead of just existing," she said.

As well as setting up a fundraising website,, she has already raised $8000 through a garage sale and an auction of celebrity prizes fetched $1700 on TradeMe last week.

While out cycling she collected prizes by asking strangers if they happened to know anyone famous.

Donated items include a signed All Blacks rugby ball, an original sketch from the bro'Town animators, a vest signed by Olympic gold medal sailor Tom Ashley, a cycling jersey signed by the New Zealand men's pursuit team who won bronze at the Beijing Olympics and a rugby league jersey signed by the Kiwis.

But despite her fundraising success, Ms O'Connor still needs to boost her funds by $3000 before she leaves New Zealand for Tanzania in early January.

She headed to Melbourne last week for a training course, where she learnt about life in Tanzania, including the basics of the Swahili language.

Originally from South Africa , Ms O'Connor has seen the problems which exist there and in many parts of Africa.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has left behind some 12 million orphaned African children. "I want to go to Tanzania and prevent this from happening to more children... it is tragic and I believe we were put on this earth to help one another," she said.