A LAST-MINUTE holiday changed the life of a woman who is now running 100 miles to help the people of an African country.
Liza Done had £350 to spend on a package holiday three years ago and plumped for a week in The Gambia.
The pride and happiness of the people in the poverty-stricken state made such an impression on Liza, of St Albans Road, Havant, that she has been back for three weeks each year since and has even been unofficially adopted into a Gambian family.
The 33-year-old company trainer now dedicates her life to helping Gambians and is taking part in 13 races, running a total of 100 miles to raise cash.
She said: ‘I had no interest in Africa until my partner and I decided to go away for a week and neither of us fancied Spain.
‘We found despite being very poor the Gambian people were so genuine. They appreciate the true things in life.
‘They treasure family and education and are so happy even though they have nothing. They are not materialistic but thoroughly appreciate what they do have and that is infectious.’
During trips to her beloved adopted country Liza has taught in schools and her partner Carl Smith, a carpenter, has refurbished blackboards – a simple but essential task.
Together they are supporting the Bantaba Project – a community project to help people in rural Gambia learn new skills.
Liza, who is learning the language of Mandika and hopes one day to run her own community project to improve local people’s lives, begins her mammoth challenge tomorrow with the Chichester 10km.
And the year will conclude with the Brufut Half Marathon in The Gambia in December – in 35C heat.
She said: ‘I don’t find running easy but I have a really worthwhile project to run for which spurs me on.
‘The people have enriched our lives so much and I want to give something back.’
To sponsor Liza go to justgiving.com/Liza-Done-Bantaba-Project.