I’m sitting in a car park at the University of West of England looking for the Kenyan Olympic Squad with climate change campaigner Nick Milton.
There’s no hiding it, we’re worried. Worried, because we have given up a day at work and driven to Bristol on what could very well be a wild-goose chase.
Nick, with the doughty determination of a former freelance journalist, had managed to half set up interviews with the team after pestering a guy called Bob, the team’s UK fixer, and Bruce Kilulai, the Kenyan Olympic team coach.
We’re there to try and get them support the work Practical Action does in Kenya, but having read a series of reports variously describing the situation in the camp as ‘chaotic’ and ‘in disarray’ both of us are coming to the conclusion that things are not looking good. Worse, Bob and Bruce haven’t replied and we’ve already tried to find them at one wind-swept athletics track without success. Now we are sitting in a corridor next to a room that someone vaguely important-looking believes they eat their lunch in. This is our final throw of the dice.
I start to do some ‘normal work’, but just as I write the first line, we spot some very thin, tall athletic-looking black guys dressed in tracksuits and Nick gives us a nudge.
Five minutes later we’re sitting in the athletes’ restaurant eating lunch; a chat with Bruce and a brief explanation of Practical Action’s work has had a magical effect.
However, the reports seem accurate: the cream of the Kenyan athletic crop isn’t there, choosing to train at altitude back home rather than brave the British summer.
Nevertheless, we speak to the 400m commonwealth champion Mark Muttai. After explaining some of our projects – solar pumps, rain water harvesting and smokeless stoves – he’s really supportive and asks us to contact him when we’re next in Kenya so we can show him some of our work.
Then we speak to 400 metre runners Maureen Jelagat and Joy Sakari. Initially both are painfully shy, but we soon have them talking about life at home, cooking with open fires and how they hope to use their position as a role model in future. Finally, we manage the coup de grace, a picture of Joy in a Practical Action shirt underneath a Kenyan flag. Considering where we were just an hour earlier, this is success.
We start to head off, but not before getting an invite to a press call at Kenya House in London next week, where some of the biggest names in world athletics will be in attendance. Naturally, we jump at the opportunity, head back to the Midlands and plot our next move.