Pontypridd resident Howard decides to free-fall clothes-free for his next charity sky dive
“It started as a joke, but it is for such a good cause, and when I realised that doing this sponsored skydive with the extra challenge of doing it naked would increase the amount raised significantly, I decided to go for it!” said Howard Smith of Graigwen, Pontypridd.
Howard raised over £2,000 for charity doing his first ever tandem skydive in August 2014, but this year he wanted to go a step further. Having declined the challenge to go ‘parachute free’ – he took the ‘clothes free’ option. On 11 July at Swindon Airport, and with no fear for his nether regions, Howard will skydive naked! “This extra challenge had better result in me beating last year’s figure by a substantial margin,” he said.
"At last year's skydive at Swansea it was compulsory to wear these awful luminous green onesie type overalls. I think I might actually feel less embarrassed being photographed this year than I was in that outfit last year!" he commented.
The reason Howard is going to such lengths is to fund one of the main projects of local charity PONT. This is a long term partnership and twinning arrangement between Rhondda Cynon Taf, and the Mbale region of Uganda. Their latest plan is the creation of an emergency ambulance service in Mbale, using eRanger motorbike ambulances. These motorbikes have a specially designed patient bed as a sidecar, and can access the narrow routes that are the only way to get to many of the villages. Already, many lives have been saved, especially those of mothers and babies, but with extra funds more can be done.
Whilst ambulance waiting times are a hot topic in Wales, in Mbale the very existence of an ambulance service is a rarity. There, if you need to get to hospital in an emergency, then if you’re very lucky you might know someone with a car, but most likely you’ll need someone to carry you, or get you there on a bicycle. Far from ideal.
The purchase of 32 motorbike ambulances has been possible through generous donations and grants from various organisations, including a number of Rotary Clubs. To run the service including fuel, servicing, and drivers wages, needs further funding - up to £10 a day for each ambulance.
Howard has made 15, self-funded, one week visits to Mbale with the PONT charity over the past decade, and has seen first-hand the need for this ambulance service, and the impact it’s had on people’s lives. “I was not prepared to stand by and see the service not being used to the full,” he said.
“Taking on this challenge was not an easy decision. Besides the embarrassment factor, plummeting in free fall from 12,000 feet at 120mph will be decidedly chilly. I don’t think I’ll be looking my most impressive!” said Howard, “but these ambulances are so important I just had to do something to help, and do it in a big way.”
Howard is personally very aware of the need for an effective ambulance service. When his youngest daughter, Megan, was 20 months old he found her in bed unconscious first thing one morning, having gone down with meningitis sometime during the night. If an ambulance had not got her to hospital quickly it is unlikely she would have survived. “I just can’t imagine what it would be like to have no ambulance to call in an emergency,” he said.
Roger Neuberg, from the Rotary Club visited Mbale recently to see the project: “I had the wonderful experience of seeking out several of the eRangers at their Health Centres. The bikes were regarded as a lifeline by the communities they served. This was brought home to me when I located the bike which had been donated by my own Rotary Club of Oadby. I saw the eRanger speeding towards us so turned around and followed it to Bududa Referral Hospital. The eRanger was carrying a woman who had delivered her first twin at home and was taking her in to the hospital to deliver the second twin. En route the road was blocked by a large street market. The stall holders on seeing that it was “their bike” on an emergency call first considered lifting the entire bike and patient up over the long line of stalls. Then they opted instead to rapidly move back every heavily laden stall to allow the bike through. The second twin required a delivery by emergency Caesarean Section as the baby had a prolapsed arm. Without the eRanger and the cooperation of the community, the mother and baby would have died in obstructed labour.”
Howard can be sponsored online at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/HowardSmith-NakedSkydive (search “Howard Naked Skydive”). Or you can donate £10 by simply texting NAKD50 10 to 70070. PONT will not put you on any mailing list as a result of this. For more details of PONT see www.pont-mbale.org.uk
PONT is a charity registered in the UK, no. 1125948
UK Skydiving Adventures Ltd is registered in England and Wales. Company no 6708098