Of all the ‘Challenge Anneka’ projects, this is the one I will never forget

When we travelled to Romania to build an orphanage 30 years ago, none of us could have been prepared for what we witnessed, writes Anneka Rice

Friday 11 December 2020 16:11
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<p>Anneka and Monica McDaid in a therapy room at the orphanage</p>

Anneka and Monica McDaid in a therapy room at the orphanage

During lockdown we’ve been turning in on ourselves. It’s been quite the thing in TV-land to take a nostalgic look at past shows to see what happened to the roof extension/puppy/long-lost child/elephant in the 10 years since. There are always lots of old clips: granny wheeled out to say how the terrace has changed her life, how the hedge has grown four inches, how the water feature went wrong but is now working again. Everyone loves these programmes.

So I’m amazed the BBC hasn’t claimed the Challenge Anneka legacy for its own and heralded it from the rooftops. We’ve had the 10th anniversary, the 25th, and now it’s the 30th. Talk about fulfilling all of the BBC’s remits in one fell swoop. Inform! Educate! Entertain! It’s an orgasm of ticks.

We built a suspension bridge once, which linked two communities in Cornwall. We renovated a soup kitchen at St Martin’s-in-the-Fields. At the time, the vicar said, “We’ve seen a kind of miracle here this week.” Thirty years on, that smoky, cosy soup kitchen has evolved into The Connection, a state-of-the-art centre for the homeless. We built a fishing facility and bungalows for wheelchair users. Volunteers still nobly work on these projects and none more so than those involved with the Romania challenge.  

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