I usually sleep with my radio on and one Saturday morning, I woke to an interview in mid stream. The guy being interviewed was talking about some experience he had in some place he had been to. You know what it’s like catching a conversation in mid flow and trying to make sense of it. The place this guy was describing sounded so surreal that it sounded very much to me like he’d been to the moon. Wow! I was fascinated. He was talking about a strange creature that he’d rescued and that started following him around as if it thought he was his mother. He talked about how the hunger got hold of the little creature after a few days, how it couldn’t keep up with him and his team and how they had to leave it behind in this strange, barren landscape and how its cries finally faded into silence. With radio, you have to paint the pictures yourself: I imagined Dwayne dressed in a space suit, floating around, and an alien type creature bobbing around behind him. I imagined its cries low and hollow as Dwayne heard them from beneath his glass bubble helmet and I felt the sadness as the team floated forward on their journey, the gap between them and the alien creature widening until they were parted forever.
I listened keenly, hoping to hear something of confirmation. Every sentence failed to take account of the fact that I’d just woken up. These people were totally ignoring me! And then they finally let me in…it was Dwayne Fields and he was talking about his trek from Canada to the North Pole. Just as fascinating as the moon trip really. Dwayne was a contestant in the Peary Hansen Race. Polar Challenge organizes this race every year and contestants go in teams (Dwayne’s team was three persons) on designated routes across the North Pole.
I snuggled under my cosy duvet, in awe of this young man, as I listened to him talk about just how cold it was at the Pole. The chill seemed to whistle down the airwaves but I was insulated. It was like watching a chilling action movie from the comfort of your armchair with the biggest tub of popcorn on your lap. Nothing could touch you, no matter how scary the scene that was played out in front of you. But unlike the typical action movie, these scenes and experiences were for real. I held my breath at points. Was this guy crazy for taking up such a challenge? Perhaps.
But perhaps not, when you consider that he had faced death more than once on the streets of London. You know, the usual story of youth gang rivalry, often triggered by something not worth the lives that are lost as a result. Dwayne and his younger brother could easily have been added to the long catalog of statistics of youth deaths on our streets. Dwayne, however, unlike so many, quite sensibly chose to become one of another kind of statistic: a role model whose influence I pray will permeate the ranks of young people across the UK and elsewhere.
Dwayne is planning to set up a foundation that will give young people opportunities to change their lives and encourage them to make better choices. He is currently finishing his Combined Honors Degree in Psychology and Third World Development, while he works part time at Barclay’s Bank. He also found time to do the Chara Challenge recently (http://www.charachallenge.com/) after returning from the North Pole and he plans to do the Polar Challenge race to the South Pole in 2012. It won’t be me going, but he’s looking for two takers to join his team for that event.
I was so intrigued as I listened to the interview that I contacted Dwayne and subsequently did a three part story about him for the Vine magazine. I’m not going to retell all here, but you can follow them on the magazine’s Caribbean Focus Page. Online magazine available at: http://www.thevinepublication.com/index.html.
Last week, I attended a youth empowerment event that the ASAR Group organized in London (http://www.asargroup.org/). Several speakers from different backgrounds and disciplines, including Dwayne, made presentations about the work they are doing with young people in London. I also had a stall at the event to launch a project that aims to help to raise funds for the Dwayne Fields Youth Foundation. In my role as a social entrepreneur, this project is one of a number of such projects that I am developing to build my business and at the same time give tangibly to worthwhile causes. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Dwayne’s work is certainly a worthwhile cause. If you would like to know more about this fund raising project or to participate, see poster attached: low res A3 poster for Dwaynes event.
You can also catch up with Dwayne at his website: http://dwaynefields.org/.