Jourdan so glad she got on her bike for life-affirming Kenya charity challenge
Co Armagh student Jourdan Baird says she's been left humbled and emotional after finishing a life-changing adventure in Africa.
The 23-year-old from Richhill completed the 120km cycle ride through rural Kenya to raise money for children living in poverty with child development charity Compassion UK.
Jourdan, who works in her family business Craigmore and is studying for a degree in business management at Queen's University, signed up for the Muskathlon Challenge in aid of the charity after being moved by a video about its work.
She said: "My family have been sponsoring children with Compassion for over 10 years, but I've always wanted to do more to help.
"I've never done any kind of cycle challenge before, but as soon as I saw the Muskathlon video I'll admit I shed some tears and I knew I had to sign up."
She spent six months training along the Newry Canal towpath and the north coast before travelling to Kenya in June for the week-long adventure with 55 other cyclists from across the UK.
The event encourages participants to find sponsors for children or raise funds to support local initiatives, such as building classrooms and toilets.
To date Jourdan has raised more than £2,500 from family, friends and work colleagues.
She has also secured sponsorship for six children, including six-year-old Lota, and £25 a month is giving the little girl the chance to have a future through good quality education, nutritious meals, emotional support and medical attention.
While in Kenya Jourdan visited Lota and her family at their home.
"Lota's dad was murdered over a land dispute, and life for her family is tough. But Lota loves school and is such a keen learner," she explained.
"She enjoyed showing me her classwork. Her family gave me beautiful headpieces that they'd made and Lota's sponsorship will benefit her whole family.
"The adventure was amazing, but very challenging. The city slums are so tough, with tiny houses that didn't feel real. I was struck by how these children, who have nothing, are so joyful and full of life."
She and her team-mates made the 120km cycle ride in 40 degree heat over rough and uneven terrain.
She added: "The cycling itself was fine until near the end when my arms were so sore from steering through the rocky ground.
"I felt sick from the heat and bumpy road and wasn't sure if I could finish the race.
"But my team-mates supported me and we all stuck together to the end.
"I was exhausted and crossed the finish line in tears, but I did it."
"It was such a humbling but amazing experience. I met the most incredible people, and already since I've been home I've received a letter from Lota.
"Even though she's now thousands of miles away, she is not forgotten."