A group of 10 charity supporting cyclists from the North East have raised enough money to build an urgently needed new classroom at a primary school in Kenya. Led by athletics legend Steve Cram and BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown, the cyclists recently completed the 200-mile Victoria Cycle Challenge in aid of international children’s charity COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas). As a result of their efforts, construction can now begin on a new permanent classroom at Mercy Primary School in Kenya.

The Victoria Cycle Challenge was organised to raise funds to support COCO’s education projects in East Africa and concluded with a visit to one of COCO’s projects, Mercy Primary School. While this was always the plan, the timing proved to be crucial. The school recently and unexpectedly had to pull down some temporary classrooms that were awaiting replacement and COCO has launched an urgent appeal to raise funds to build five permanent classrooms. During the visit, Steve Cram officially opened one classroom that has already been built with funding support from the St. James’s Place Foundation and was able to confirm that the cyclists had raised sufficient money to build another of the five permanent classrooms still needed at the school.

Speaking to pupils and staff, Steve gave an update on the Save Mercy Primary appeal and promised that COCO would make sure that the school can continue to deliver the education to young people that is essential for improving their future prospects.

COCO’s Save Mercy Primary Appeal aims to raise over £42,000 and is open for donations at www.coco.org.uk/classrooms. In addition, donations can be made by text message. Text ‘SCHOOL’ to 70470 to donate £5. Texts costs £5 plus the standard message rate. People can also donate £10 or £20 by texting ‘SCHOOL 10’ or ‘SCHOOL 20’ to 70470, where the text will cost £10/£20 plus the standard message rate. The 10 participants in the COCO Victoria Cycle Challenge raised over £25,000 for the charity, some of which will be added to the appeal and will fund the construction of the new classroom.

Steve Cram comments: “COCO has some very generous and committed supporters and it was a privilege to team up with Jeff and join some of them on the Victoria Cycle Challenge. Visiting Mercy Primary School is always a great experience and it was brilliant to be able to share some good news with the students and teachers. We’re very grateful to everyone who has donated to the appeal so far and hope that people will continue to dig deep so that we can build the rest of the classrooms.”

Co-founded in 2000 by Steve Cram CBE and British Army Major Jim Panton, COCO has grown into one of the North East’s most dynamic and well-loved charities, working in partnership with remote communities across East Africa to provide access to the quality education that is essential for a good start in life. Since its inception, the charity has raised over £4.5 million to fund small, community led programmes. COCO and its partners have now undertaken 66 transformational projects in 16 countries, positively impacting on the lives of over 200,000 people.

The Victoria Cycle Challenge is one of a series of sports and outdoor events organised by COCO to raise funds to support its work in Africa. As well as attracting participants, the challenges offer other opportunities for individuals and businesses to back the charity. During their ride in Kenya, all of the cyclists were kitted out with performance apparel from Presca Teamwear, a growing North East based brand of ethically sourced, sustainable sports products.

For further information about the work of COCO, visit www.coco.org.uk, find the charity on Facebook, or follow @COCO_Charity on Twitter.