Ford goes the distance for communities in need

Ford goes the distance for communities in need

COVID-19 has left rural communities more in need than ever before. Access to clean water and sanitation is paramount to surviving this pandemic. Ford South Africa heeded the call for assistance and created a campaign that placed 40 female journalists, and digital content creators, at the forefront of a drive called ‘RangeHer Drives with a Mission’.

During a two week period, over four rotations, women from across the country travelled 4300km off the beaten track to hand deliver hand-washing stations, soap and PPE face shields to rural hospitals, schools and communities. Ford used this opportunity to also highlight Ford Wildlife Foundation conservation projects.

Driving through the Eastern Cape.

2020 has led us down the path of introspection – this is the year you give more than you take and appreciate all you have. It also happened to be one of the few journeys I completed due to COVID-19 restrictions – being out on the open road, and drifting on dirt roads on mountain tops was a rare kind of special. Our leg of the trip was the final rotation, and started in Port Elizabeth at the Otto Du Plessis High School in Port Elizabeth, where Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) donated an engine to the technical department. The handover was attended by Shawn Govender, FMCSA plant manager and the Deputy Education Minister, Makgabo Reginah Mhaule. The engine will be used to help students further their studies in the motoring technical field, a much-needed skill in this country.

Shawn Govender, FMCSA plant manager hands over the engine to Deputy Education Minister Makgabo Reginah Mhaule.

The convoy of nine media, and support vehicles, included the recently launched Ranger Thunder, the popular Ranger Wildtrak and the mighty Ranger Raptor high-performance off-road pickup. With extensive gravel and off-road driving dominating the route, we got to experience the Ranger’s confidence-inspiring capabilities in a wide range of demanding environments encompassing some of South Africa’s most scenic locations, while also proving their mettle behind the wheel.

The handling on the vehicle, on all terrain is most impressive and the comfort second to none.

The Umlamli Hospital near Sterkspruit in the rural Eastern Cape was the next destination. The hospital has an on-going struggle for resources because of its location. The staff were most grateful for the delivery of PPE face shields which will assist doctors, nurses and essential workers to deliver life-saving care to communities in the area.

Minesh Bhagaloo, GM of Communications at Ford, delivers PPE equipment to the Umlamli Hospital near Sterkspruit.

The final drop-off was at Mbhili Primary School in Walaza near the Lesotho border. Ford donated two specially developed portable Flow-Bin hand-washing stations, which comprise a 1 000-litre water tank plus stand, a built-in basin and all of the necessary fittings. Additionally, 300 soap bars was provided for each station – with the hand-washing facilities designed to improve personal hygiene amongst learners, and help contain the spread of COVID-19.

The school is so under-resourced, it was heart-warming to see how grateful both teachers and students were for the supplies that will surely keep them protected.

The backroads between Port Elizabeth, the rural hospitals and schools along the R393 gave drivers a chance to put the Ford Rangers to the ultimate test, which they more than effectively passed. The dirt roads led high up alongside the Drakensberg Mountain range, and delivered vantage points that left us stunned at the natural beauty.

Moving slowly past ‘Africa’s road blocks’ of flocks of lamb, relaxed cows and cumbersome goats, it allowed us the chance to breath in winding passes and mountainsides that many South African’s know nothing about.

Africa’s road blocks.

It is a route less-trodden and is highly recommended if you are looking for an usual route to experience the Eastern Cape.

More importantly, this experience allowed a group of women from very different and diverse walks of life to converge and place importance on issues we only hear about. It gave us the opportunity to engage on topics that make us all want to do more for the communities near and dear to us. It was a trip of empowerment through example, and we will forever be grateful to be included on a project that quite literally changed lives.

The mountain ranges along the route in the Eastern Cape are mesmerising.

“With RangeHer, we are demonstrating that individuals have the power to change the world around them, and that women are highly influential and valued change-makers in our society,” says Neale Hill, MD of FMCSA. “Facilitated by the exceptional, sure-footed capabilities of the locally assembled Ford Ranger, our RangeHer Drives with a Mission campaign provides the platform for a wide range of women to truly ‘Live The Ranger Life’ by experiencing exactly what this remarkable vehicle can do, sharing the journey with special people, helping others and, importantly, having a lot of fun while doing so.

And fun was had!