Nick Hewer: Countdown to Freetown


Nick Hewer, Countdown host and deputy to Lord Alan Sugar on The Apprentice, is leaving his comfort zone behind to attempt a near-impossible adventure.

He's towing a one and half-ton industrial saw and generator five thousand miles to Sierra Leone. It's a crazy journey, from England through France and Spain, down the west coast of Africa to Freetown. He's up against punishing heat, potholed dirt tracks, third world mechanics and endemic corruption. Why is he doing this? He wants to present the saw to an unsuspecting James, a young street kid he met there three years ago on a visit with his charity Hope and Homes for Children. James was trained as a carpenter by the charity and Nick was taken with his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Now Nick wants to perform a personal act of charity by gifting James the saw and generator to kick start a fledgling business. It's an adventure that lurches from one crisis to another: the vandalism of Nick's donated $53,0000 Land Cruiser in Morocco, the impassibility of the Western Sahara due to the threat of kidnapping, the near destruction of the trailer axels because of the appalling Guinea sand roads. Arriving in Freetown, a massive truck with no brakes crashes into the side of the vehicle. A unique component of the generator mysteriously goes missing only to be offered back to him sprayed with black paint - for $500. Everything seems out of control and Nick is furious.

When he finally gets to meet James, the 19 year old is truly touched by Nick's charitable act, especially when Nick buys him some wood to get started and helps him set up a bank account. However the reality of owning a set of massive machines in one of the world's poorest countries gives rise to questions about the wisdom of Nick's philanthropy. Is the half ton saw going to help James or put him in danger? Does he need a planing machine to accompany the saw? Can the business really be a success in such a lawless place as Freetown? And above all, can a personal intervention like this be any more effective than giving money to one of the big charities?

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12 Apr 2013, 02:30
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