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Silchester pensioner raises £1,000 for African charity through exhibition



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A SILCHESTER pensioner who traversed the plains of Africa on a bicycle has raised more than £1,000 for charity after holding an arts exhibition of paintings inspired by her journey.

Seventy-two year old Sandi Smithers undertook an eight-day, 300km cycle trek across Kenya in November 2019 to raise money for Charity Links – a UK charity that helps smaller charities focused on educational projects in East Africa to raise funds.

Mrs Smithers began her journey – titled the ‘Ride the Rift’ challenge – near Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, and then headed south to Lake Magadi near the border with Tanzania, before cycling towards the heart of the Great Rift Valley and the Maasai Mara.

Sandi Smithers art exhibition at Silchester Village Hall.Ref: 28-0521.. (49111704)
Sandi Smithers art exhibition at Silchester Village Hall.Ref: 28-0521.. (49111704)

Since then, she has been doing paintings in watercolour and acrylic based on her ride, such as the sweeping plains of the savannah, local African villages and blazing red sunsets.

On Saturday, these paintings – as well as her landscapes of the scenery around North Hampshire and West Berkshire – went on sale at an exhibition in Silchester Village Hall, with the funds going to Charity Links.

Over the course of the day Mrs Smithers raised around £1,150.

Sandi Smithers art exhibition at Silchester Village Hall.Ref: 28-0521.. (49111735)
Sandi Smithers art exhibition at Silchester Village Hall.Ref: 28-0521.. (49111735)

Reflecting on the day, the mother-of-one said: “I would say it went very successfully – we had a constant flow of people and there was a lot of interest and I think everybody thoroughly enjoyed it.

“They were much admired by people – people said things like: ‘It just took me home,’ and ‘it’s like looking out of my window’ and that was just so complimentary.”

Mrs Smithers said she was “moved” to paint her pictures because of the atmosphere of Africa.

Sandi Smithers art exhibition at Silchester Village Hall.Ref: 28-0521.. (49111739)
Sandi Smithers art exhibition at Silchester Village Hall.Ref: 28-0521.. (49111739)

She continued: “They’re based on photos but I’ve used artistic licence.

“My favourite one is the river crossing because we bathed in that river when we’d just done a hard cycle and had just gone up a steep ridge.

“We went in and sat in the river, and the picture shows a couple of Maasais who thought we were very funny sitting in the river with a can of beer.”

Mrs Smithers is now preparing for a ‘Ride Uganda’ in November, although is waiting for a final decision on whether it will go ahead.



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