A 27-YEAR-OLD Belfast woman running across Zimbabwe for charity has won the support of entrepreneur Richard Branson.

Nellie English, who was born in Zimbabwe but whose family home is in the Botanic area of south Belfast, is running across the southern African country – the first person to ever complete the 724km trek.

She is aiming to raise money for several Zimbabwean charities including the Zimbabwe National Association for Mental Health (Zimnamh).

Mr Branson wished Ms English well in her run.

“It’s fantastic that Nellie is running solo across Zimbabwe in support of such a worthwhile cause,” he said.

“Nellie is running the equivalent of a marathon every day for 17 days; this takes great strength, passion and determination, she is pushing boundaries and doing good at the same time. I wish her every success in her fundraising efforts.”

Ms English has covered more than 500km in the first 10 days of her run and hopes to finish her trek at Victoria Falls on Saturday.

“This run is enormously challenging – one day I will be on the main Bulawayo to Victoria Falls road and afraid I will become roadkill as the lorries thunder by, apparently intent on pushing me off the road, and the next I am on a dirt back road, running through thick thorny bush,” she said.

“But I am so enjoying it as the cause makes it all so worthwhile – the problem of mental illness is stigmatized in Zimbabwean communities, as in much of Africa, so it is hard for people to get the treatment they need.”

Happya Mayuni, Zimnamh’s programme officer, is driving Ms English’s escort vehicle.

“She is an incredible young lady and our association and the people we serve owe her a great debt of gratitude,” he said.

To donate visit www.gofundme.com/cdrn78kk