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7 February 2013

The Robben Island Balloon Run

In April 2013, Matt Silver-Vallance will attempt to fly from Robben Island to Cape Town using 200 helium balloons as his mode of transport.

The Robben Island Balloon Run – a daring feat. The Robben Island Balloon Run – a daring feat.

The history of Robben Island has shown us that nothing is too difficult, as long as people work together, have a common goal and determination to succeed – Sibongiseni Mkhize, Chief Executive Officer, Robben Island Museum.

Matt Silver-Vallance is one of just 13 people in the world to attempt the feat of ‘cluster ballooning’. In April 2013, he aims to fly from Robben Island to Cape Town strapped to a large bunch of helium balloons. Silver-Vallance says this daredevil stunt is all for a good cause – he aims to raise R10 million to assist with the building of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.

The idea to fly from Robben Island to the Mother City was inspired from his time as a paramedic in the Western Cape Ambulance Service when he witnessed the incredible work done by the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. Nelson Mandela is also one of his heroes, so Robben Island (where Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years) seemed a natural choice for an airborne excursion that would create a media buzz both locally and internationally.

Sibongiseni Mkhize, Chief Executive Officer at Robben Island Museum, says he thinks Silver-Vallance’s initiative is ambitious but, in the spirit of Robben Island, also achievable: ‘The history of Robben Island has shown us that nothing is too difficult, as long as people work together, have a common goal and determination to succeed.’

The Robben Island Balloon Run will take place between 1 and 27 April 2013. ‘We can’t set an exact date as yet,' explains Silver-Vallance. 'We literally have to wait for the correct wind…as it will control our direction.'

He has an experienced support team who will assist in the journey, managed by Mike Howard, a pilot for Emirates Airline and a Guinness World Record Holder. Careful technical planning has gone into ensuring a smooth flight.
 
He says he takes his inspiration from those who have gone before: ‘Nelson Mandela, and the previous political prisoners of South Africa that sacrificed so much to make our country a better place and people that help me along the way…give me so much encouragement.'

Currently in the planning stages, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital will be built in the Johannesburg suburb of Parktown, close to the the Wits Medical School. Plans are that the hospital will open in 2014. One thing is for certain – Silver-Vallance and his 200 balloons will certainly spread the word about this worthy cause.