For the past four years, New Zealander Andrew Parker has been travelling the world with his hot air balloon as part of an inspiring project that aims to spread cultural diversity and promote children’s rights to education.
Called Flying High for Kids, the project began in December 2013, when Andrew took his mission to the skies and roads, using his truck to haul the balloon that he has flown in over 70 countries. Using the UNICEF brand on the face of the bright balloon, Andrew tethers the impressive craft at schools and not-for-profit projects in the countries he visits, with the aim of raising funds for UNICEF and drawing attention to the needs of children in developing countries. The project also sees Andrew running a cultural exchange scheme, facilitating a postcard and letter-swap programme that allows children in the different countries that he visits to communicate with each other.
“I had the idea of flying for a cause back in my early teens and it has stayed with me ever since. I started planning in 2010 and it was a dream come true when the project began. I’ve flown balloons in many countries but I’ve never had the chance to do something on this scale. It is a chance for me to share my passion for ballooning and inspire kids to follow their dreams. Many of the kids we meet have never seen a hot air balloon before and it brings me a lot of satisfaction to see the smiles on their faces,” Andrew said. Over the past few months Andrew has travelled through Africa, visiting Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, and next year he plans to continue his journey by going to South Africa before shipping the truck and balloon to Colombia where he will follow a route through Central and North America.
The project holds a series of meetings with communities, schools, children and teachers in the countries that Andrew and his team visit in an effort to create a strong network of connectivity, and Andrew estimates that he has reached over 25,000 children so far.
More information on the project, as well as live blog updates, is available at the Flying High for Kids website.