Archive for Charity Challenge News

Kamal Bhandari, our Nepalese Challenge Leader had a secret urge to visit the Great Wall of China…

KamalKamal has been leading Charity Challenge Everest Base Camp Treks for over ten years. He has weathered some of the most rugged terrain on Earth and has never hesitated to go the extra mile for his team and those trekking with him.  Many of you reading this will have shared some memorable moments in the Himalayas with him and know how passionate he is about making the trips a wonderful experience for his clients.

We found out that a lifelong dream of Kamal’s was to visit the Great Wall of China and as he has been a truly wonderful guide and advocate of Charity Challenge over the years, we set plans in motion to try and make a trip for him as memorable…  Here’s what he has to say:

“My journey to Great Wall has been a memorable one. A dream come true. A Big THANK YOU and the credit goes to Charity Challenge for helping and sorting my trip. It really makes me proud working with them.

This trip was different from my usual treks in Nepal. It is not correct to say that it was easy compared with my trips in the Himalayas. We had to walk lots of ups and downs, half of which was natural and half renovated – some of them were killers! But I loved it.

I was given the chance from Charity Challenge to be with a trekking team from Royal Marsden Hospital of 24 trekkers. I felt lucky to be with them. Even though I was a stranger for everyone before the trip, I was never given a chance to think back. The care, love and friendly attitude of everyone made me speechless.

With nothing to worry about – altitude nor the clients, I was tension free.  I was more like aKalam in china small spoiled kid kept in middle of the toy shop. The views, walk itself, greenery, shopkeepers, locals, guides and participants are all still rolling over my head. For everything I give a BIG THUMBS UP.

On completion of the Great Wall Walk, covering 50 KM in 5 days, we advanced towards Central Beijing. Beijing was other place I always want to visit. Olympic 2008 stadium, watching aerobatics, visiting the square which could hold millions of people at once, the Forbidden  City which is renowned and famous and Temple of Heaven were all the highlights which I felt lucky to see.

I could easily make it that it was my holiday, as I felt very emotional leaving Beijing and departing with my friends, which normally does not happen with me.

Lastly, I am very grateful to CHARITY CHALLENGE and to everyone who supported me (Simon A and B, Carmel, Jo and David) to fulfill my desire to walk on the Great Wall and visit Beijing.”

Kamal we salute you! Thank you for your continued energy and experience looking after our clients in Nepal.

If Kamal’s dream has inspired you to trek on the Great Wall of China, then please click here.

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Attend one of our free information evenings in November and find out what a Charity Challenge is all about!

Why not come and find out what Charity Challenges are all about? Attend our information evening and hear how you can take part in a ‘once in a life time opportunity’, find out about our challenges, the way we work and why we’re different to other companies in the market. You’ll also get to meet some of the lovely Charity Challenge team before you book!

The information evening will be held on the following days:

•    Wed 26 November 2014 at 7.15pm – “High altitude challenges” at The Altitude Centre (Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, Everest Base Camp, Avenue of the Volcanoes, Dalai Lama Himalayan Trek, High Atlas Trek and Atlas Mountain Bike)

•    Thu 27 November 2014 at 7.15pm  – “Other challenges” at The Altitude Centre  (Great Wall of China Trek, Sahara Desert Trek, Icelandic Lava Trek, Sumatran Jungle Trek, Trek/Cycle Burma, Dog Sledding, Rajasthan Cycle Challenge, Cuba Trek/Bike or any other non-altitude challenge that we do (please specify when you register)

The following information will be covered:

•    Information on our portfolio of challenges
•    Support you will receive from Charity Challenge
•    Fundraising
•    Fitness training
•    Other pre-expedition preparation
•    Buy/hiring kit for the challenge
•    How and why to book with Charity Challenge
•    Discounts on the night
•    Q&A session

Places are limited on both evenings, so if this sounds like something you’re interested in, then book your place now! Please email Charlotte at cblack@charitychallenge.com with the date of the evening you would like to attend, the number of people attending (anyone interested in booking a challenge is most welcome) with their name, email address and the name of the challenge you are interested in.

We look forward to meeting you and hopefully helping you to achieve your personal goal and raise vital funds for a charity close to your heart.

Kind regards

Firdous

Get through the Winter blues with £100 discount off the deposit on our spring departures!

We’ve had a great summer this year and although we’ve been promised a heat wave this month, Autumn and Winter are slowly creeping up on us.

The first few months of the year always seems to be the slowest and hardest months to get through, so we’ve decided to give you something to look forward to.

The majority of our departures between January and May now have a £100 discount off of the deposit!*

This includes:

Book on any one of these challenges by quoting BLUES and get a £100 discount off of the deposit* and have something to help motivate you through the winter blues. Offer ends 31/10/2014.**

We know that some of you have been let down by Student Adventures and are now looking for alternative challenges, hopefully you can take advantage of our current special offers.

Don’t forget, we’re still celebrating Pachamama in Peru and the Moon Festival in China and are giving £100 off all 2015 China and Peru challenges! Make sure you book soon (quote promotional code PERU when booking on a Peru challenge or MOON when booking on a challenge in China), as this offer expires on the 31/10/14!

If you have any questions about any of our challenges, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards

Firdous
Marketing Manager

T: +44 (0)208 346 0500 | E: info@charitychallenge.com | W: www.charitychallenge.com

*One promotion can only be used at any one time.

**Subject to flight availability

BREAKING NEWS: STUDENT ADVENTURES GOES BUST!

WHAT’S HAPPENED:

We have received an unusual number of calls today asking if everything was OK!

The reason for this concern is that some of you may have read in the National Press, and heard on Radio 4, about a company specialising in charity challenge style events that has gone into administration.

The company in question (GBCE Ltd, trading as Student Adventures) was a small organisation specialising in low budget university student groups. Sadly, it has developed a poor reputation in the industry over the last 18 months. The company did not renew their ATOL licence earlier this year but continued to trade and, today, went into administration leaving their clients without services in the destination country.

I am very pleased to tell you that Charity Challenge is in no way connected or affiliated to Student Adventures or their holding company.

Today’s events have been reported in Travel Weekly and The Independent, “As Nottingham University were about to check in for their flight to Tanzania via Dubai to climb Kilimanjaro, the organisers sent out an email saying they had gone out of business.”

The firm advised clients that while they could fly as planned, ground arrangements had been annulled: “We are unable to provide any services for you as a customer of ours whilst you are in-country in Tanzania.” The message added: “We are deeply sorry that we have not been able to meet our commitments to you and it was our honest intention to fulfill (sic) our service and obligation to you.”

OUR SUCCESS SPEAKS FOR ITSELF:

Charity Challenge has been trading very successfully for over 15 years and was one of the pioneers in challenge expeditions. Charity Challenge is now the world’s leading fundraising challenge company. We have helped over 1700 charities to raise in excess of £40m and have taken tens of thousands of people on life changing expeditions.

Voted best Challenge Company by the Institute of Fundraising Awards in 2013 and 2014, Charity Challenge has been involved in many of the sector’s most successful challenges including the Comic Relief climb of Kilimanjaro and the Hell and High Water Challenge down the Zambezi.

Many new inexperienced companies have been established in the last few years and started to offer similar challenge events and have cut costs substantially to compete, which has had a direct impact on the quality and safety of the services that they can offer.

At Charity Challenge, we pride ourselves in providing exceptionally well thought through, risk assessed, professionally managed challenges with outstanding levels of quality and safety. For charity and corporate groups, it is their reputation in our hands, and for the participants, it is your wellbeing.

HOW WE CAN HELP YOU IF YOU ARE AFFECTED BY TODAY’S NEWS:

If you are booked with Charity Challenge, please know that you are in very safe hands.

If you have booked with Student Adventures and manage to secure a refund, we will offer you £100 off of any of our overseas challenges (excluding London to Paris).

If you are in a group and have flights and no ground services, please get in touch as we may be able to provide you with the services you require.

If you have a group but no services booked, we can potentially organise a full package for you.

From Simon Albert, Founder & Managing Director of Charity Challenge

T: +44 (0)208 346 0500 | E: info@charitychallenge.com | W: www.charitychallenge.com

Celebrate festivals around the world and get 100 pounds off 2015 Peru and China challenges!

With the season of festivals in the air, we have some fantastic special offers waiting for you to celebrate. August is the month of  “Pachamama” or Mother Earth Festival in Peru and the ‘Moon Festival’ is celebrated throughout September in China.

To mark both festivals and to help us all have a successful season of trekking and cycling in the Andes and in China, we are offering a £100 discount* on all of our 2015Peru and China Challenges! This includes the popular Trek to Machu Picchu, Cycle Machu Picchu to the Amazon,the Great Wall of China trek, cycle, run and multi-activity triple challenge!

To take advantage of this fantastic offer, simply enter PERU (for Trek to Machu Picchu and Cycle Machu Picchu to the Amazon) and MOON(for the China challenges) at the time of booking. Offer ends 30/09/2014, so make sure you book before then!

Don’t forget to include your friends and family in the celebration and share the news of Pachamama, the Moon Festival and the £100 discount!

What is Pachamama?

Every year, in the Peruvian Andes, August is recognised as the month of the “Pachamama” or Mother Earth. The celebration consists of a ceremony called “Pago a la Tierra” (payment to the land) where Andean people offer mother earth the best of last year’s produce. Traditionally, it would include corn, wheat, potatoes, coca, but in more recent times also includes sweets, huayruros (mystical seed jungle), wine and animal foetuses – especially llamas. They are all placed together and buried as an offering to ask for a successful harvest in the coming year, to be sure that it will be good and healthy.  Click here to see how Pachamama is celebrated in Peru.

The Moon Festival

The Moon Festival (also known as Mid-Autumn Festival) is one of the most important traditional festivals celebrated in China. The festival is an inherited custom of moon sacrificial ceremonies. The ancient Chinese observed that the movement of the moon had a close relationship with changes of the seasons and agricultural production. Therefore to express their gratitude, to the moon and celebrate the harvest, the Chinese offered a sacrifice to the moon on autumn days. The Moon Festival is celebrated when the full moon rises, and families get together to watch the full moon, eat moon cakes, and sing moon poems!

If you have any questions about these challenges, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts. Sylvana (the Operations Manager for our Peru challenges), is from Peru and has been to Machu Picchu over 50 times and Carmel (the Operations Manager for China) is managing over 25 departures to China and has a wealth of knowledge about the all the challenges in China. They will be more than happy to help you with any queries so feel free to drop then a note at sylvana@charitychallenge.com and carmel@charitychallenge.com.

Tupananchiskama/ Zài jiàn! (See you soon!)

Firdous
Marketing Manager

T: +44 (0)208 346 0500 | E: info@charitychallenge.com | W: www.charitychallenge.com

*Please note you must enter the promotional code PERU at the time of booking to claim the £100 discount. If you book on a challenge with the Self Funder or Flexi Payment option, the £100 will be deducted from your final balance, £100 will be refunded to participants who have booked using the Minimum sponsorship payment option. Offer valid from 01 Aug to 30 Sep 2014. Only one promotional code can be accepted per booking.

SECURITY UPDATE: EXTRA TIME NEEDED AT ALL UK AIRPORTS

In light of the recent announcement by the Department of Transport regarding the need for extra security measures at airports, we strongly advise all customers departing on any of our challenges to ensure they arrive at the airport with extra time to spare to allow for airport security.

Anyone traveling with mobile devices must make sure they are charged and if possible carry a spare charger. If you cannot turn on your device when asked, you will be forbidden from boarding the plane. Airlines will not be holding flights for anyone stuck in security due to the extra delays these measures may cause.

As an absolute minimum, all Charity Challenge participants must arrive for their flight no later than 3 hours prior to the scheduled departure time. Please note this affects ALL flights to ALL destinations. In the event you do not board your flight, neither the airline nor Charity Challenge will be able to reimburse you and you may have to purchase a new ticket.

www.charitychallenge.com

Charity Challenge hits 15: An interview with the BOSS!

CC 15y Celebrate Banner Website

June sees Charity Challenge proudly celebrating 15 years of inspirational fundraising challenges! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US! So we thought it would be nice to interview the boss, Simon Albert, about Charity Challenge’s journey over the last 15 years.

What was the inspiration behind setting up Charity Challenge?

Simon-trekkingAbout 18 years ago I signed up for one of the first challenges of their kind with about 120 other people. I saw an advert to trek Petra which was somewhere I had always wanted to go to. We trekked through Jordan and it was really quite inspirational. Then the charity asked me to climb Kilimanjaro and I did that the following year having never climbed or trekked at altitude and I managed (with some difficulty) to get to the top. There were only three people in their 20s including myself. Most of the people were more or less of my parents’ generation and I felt there wasn’t anyone who offered inspirational challenges for young people to raise money for charity.

So over the next two years I travelled with Jeremy Gane, a very respected tour operator who later became my business partner, first to Tanzania to design a trek with the Maasai through the African bush, and then to Cuba to trek the trail of Cuba’s revolution. Jeremy organising the tours and I became the tour leader with a view to take a group of around 40 people to do each challenge.

At the time I was doing a graduate training role and a very respected business person gave me some sage advice that I have never forgotten. It was that if you want to be successful at something you should do something that excites you and that you are passionate about. I realised then that I could combine my love of travel with organising events to raise money for good causes. A few months later I came up with the idea of Charity Challenge.

I discussed it with Jeremy and with his valuable input, and from my initial experience of the trips I’d been on as a client and then leader, certain elements stuck with me. The first was that we should stick to small groups which were more environmentally responsible and would give the participants a much better and more genuine experience. Secondly, the pricing should be completely transparent and include everything that could be included, and the third was to launch open challenges where anyone could go and raise money for any charity. We were the first people to do that.

That has been a fundamental part of our business over the last 15 years. The initial trips made me aware of a number of other audiences who might also be interested in these kinds of challenges. I’m proud to say that some of the first organisations that we were involved with 15 years ago are still clients today and that includes CLIC Sargent, who were the charity supported on our very first trek up one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, and the NSPCC, who did a Kilimanjaro climb and a trek with the Maasai.

How did the business develop during the early years?

The early years were tough, as with any new business. When I started the company it was me Sumatra-blog-13on my own in a box room that someone had provided me with. Jeremy was working from his own established tour operator. Although the romantic dream had been to travel the world, I was pretty much stuck in a tiny office, 13 hours a day, seven days a week – sometimes for three or four weeks without a break. But the hard work paid off and from the initial portfolio of five or six challenges we have greatly increased the number of activities that we offer, the number of countries that we go to, the number of participants that we have engaged with and the number of charities that we have raised funds for. The portfolio now includes treks, bike rides, runs, mountain climbs, dog sledding, snow shoeing, sledge hauling, white water rafting, kayaking and horse riding. We travel to the North and South Poles and every environment in between including deserts, rivers, jungles, mountains, volcanoes, oceans and rainforests.

Describe some of the highs and lows of the last decade-and-a-half

During the last 15 years we have had to deal with a multitude of unforeseen situations including bird flu, SARS, terrorist attacks, cancelled flights, strikes, tsunami, hurricanes, the Arab Spring and the eruption of an Icelandic volcano. Pretty much every significant world incident impacts on our business. As an example, the Women’s Great Walk of China in 2004 was a walk 300 women across the entire length of the Great Wall of China over a seven month period. It consisted of 24 back-to-back challenges starting in the Gobi Desert and ending at the Yellow Sea. But by group three the impact of SARS meant the government threw out all tourists and refused to let any others in. So at a moment’s notice we had to organise for hundreds of clients to do different treks of the same length but now in Peru, Thailand, Mexico, Tanzania and India. It was a massive undertaking and learning curve, but one that enabled us to respond quickly to other such incidents.

CC-IND-Shovelling-GravelIn 2004 we decided to create a new type of challenge called Community Challenge which would involve our clients going to a number of developing countries and working with local NGOs to build houses, schools and community centres. We were due to launch it in January 2005, but a few weeks earlier on Boxing Day 2004 the Asian tsunami occurred. I remember sitting in my hotel room on holiday glued, day after day, to the TV and finding it hard to comprehend the sheer scale of the devastation and the number of lives that had been lost.
We had never worked in Sri Lanka and had no ground handler or charity partner. We had never worked with the national airline but we knew that this was something where we could have a positive impact and, driven by this desire to help, we set up and launched a programme with Habitat for Humanity GB that took us to tsunami-affected communities in Sri Lanka and India in order to rebuild hundreds of houses.

I myself went on the very first group and worked with a local fisherman who was out in his boat at the time that the tsunami struck. The boat was destroyed, but he managed to get back to land –  though it took him three days to finally reunite with his wife and two young children. I worked with a team of 16 people and we helped him rebuild his house. This was one of the most powerful experiences I have had and I still have a photo of him and his family and what was left of his fishing boat, framed on my wall. It reminds me every day that we can make a difference.

In the year after the tsunami we sent more volunteers to Sri Lanka than the UN. We were personally thanked by the minister of tourism in Sri Lanka and managed to raise over £1.1million for the rebuilding process. In the years that followed the programme expanded to India, Tanzania, Nepal, South Africa, Mexico, China, Cambodia and many other countries. The majority of the participants were part of corporate teams taking part in corporate responsibility programmes or HR-led team-building challenges.

These challenges accounted for a third of our business at the time that Lehman Brothers went bust and the world became aware of the global economic downturn. We (literally) lost a third of our business. Not only did this have a drastic impact on the commercial side of Charity Challenge, but it meant that we couldn’t follow through with what was happening in many of those developing communities.

Celebrities Climb Mount Kilimanjaro For Comic Relief - Day 7Soon afterwards we were approached and appointed to organise the Comic Relief BT Red Nose Climb which involved Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole and a host of other celebrities climbing Kilimanjaro. It was my business partner Jeremy Gane who successfully organised and escorted a team and crew of 34 participants to the top of Kilimanjaro with 100% success. This included a huge BBC crew, a team from Radio One, the celebrities, photographers, journalists, charity representatives and support crew.

I reached the summit side by side with Jeremy and when the last of the celebrities had reached the summit we hugged and Jeremy broke down in tears. The stress and workload of organising such a high profile challenge had been immense and it was a massive relief. What’s more, the trip went on to raise more than £3.32million for fighting malaria in Africa.

There have been many highs and many lows, but in the process we have helped raise over £40million for 1,670 UK, Irish and Canadian charities. I couldn’t be prouder!

What would you consider the company’s biggest achievement to date?

Over the 15 years there have been numerous achievements that I’m particularly proud about.
In 2007, after we launched our Community Challenge programme we were highly commended by the Queen’s Award for sustainable development and highly commended in the Virgin Holidays Responsible Travel Awards, which was run globally. We were the second best in the whole world for the category of Poverty Reduction.

Simon meting the Prince of Wales!Although I initially thought it was someone playing a joke on me, I received an invitation to Buckingham Palace in 2011 to celebrate 100 years of British adventure and was honoured to meet the Queen and Prince Philip, as well as a number of other members of the Royal Family and famous adventurers including Michael Palin, Bruce Parry and Ben Fogle. There was a second brush with royalty when I was introduced to Prince Charles at an event which connected business with worthwhile charitable causes.

However, the one achievement that makes me the most proud was being nominated as one of the 100 people who make Britain a happier place in the Independent on Sunday Happy List

We have been the first to introduce a number of concepts and have always driven best practice within the sector. Most recently we have been recognised in the Partners in Fundraising awards which are run by the Institute of Fundraising and voted for by the charity membership of the Institute. The awards launched in 2013 and we were voted the Best Challenge Company both in 2013 and 2014. It’s great after 15 years of hard work, developing the business and doing our best to represent the charity sector, to receive this kind of recognition.

I once had advice to only ever do business in a way that I could look back on it at the end of the year and be proud of how I handled the decisions I had made. Sometimes there could have been easier decision or more profitable options, however I have always stirred to focus on what I felt was right by the developing communities where we run our challenges, the charities we support and the individuals who take part in the challenges. After 15 years as I look back, I am very proud of where the business has come.

What direction to do you see Charity Challenge taking in the future?

It’s an incredibly exciting time as we move further into 2014 and out of a five-year economic Holi1_WC30395downturn. It has been hard for people to commit their own funds and to raising thousands of pounds for other people when throughout the UK people have been having to tighten their belts. But almost as soon as it turned to 2014 there seems to have been a massive upturn in confidence and we have just had our best first quarter in terms of the number of people booking on to challenges since the start of the recession.

We are currently reviewing our entire business by taking a step back and assessing how we operate and how we can make it a better experience for everyone involved. We hope to be launching a new and improved Community Challenge service before the summer is out. We have recruited a number of new members of staff from the charity, travel and entertainment sectors who are bringing lots of new ideas. As well as new countries and new activities, we are redesigning our website and have lots of new and exciting ideas to launch.

I hope this is a new sustained growth period for the entire charity sector and Charity Challenge intends to be at the forefront, driving innovation and best practice.
We introduced Charity Challenge in Canada two years ago and this is an area which we are continuing to develop. We launched a huge range of UK challenges in 2013 and I am pleased to say that most are selling out this year.

We have also established a number of worthwhile partnerships to be able to deliver some mass participation UK events and to restart a number of our Community Challenge school builds around the world.

And now for a few thank yous…

PeruFirst and foremost to the man who inspired me about the world of adventure travel but more specifically about the ethics of responsible travel and responsible business! Long before the buzz words of responsible business became hip, Jeremy Gane was running Gane & Marshall International in a way which looked after its staff, porters, guides and entire crew like a big family. I was privileged in the early years to travel with Jeremy to Cuba and Tanzania and to develop the first itineraries. It was this experience of the way that Jeremy did business that has given me a model that I have stuck to with Charity Challenge. Jeremy became my business partner in 1999 and has been my best friend ever since and I’m grateful for his ongoing support, guidance and very valued input.

Thanks to Simon Lester for the inspiration to do something I am passionate about. I am so pleased I followed his advice!

Thanks to Rita Eker from the One to One Foundation who gave me my first shot in the charity world. I am forever grateful.

Thanks to all of the incredible people have worked for Charity Challenge over the years and who have contributed to the ideas and operation of our expeditions.

Finally, and by no means least, a huge thank you to my wife Lianne, and to my sons Benji, Gadi and Nathan, for putting up with me. I`m privileged to love what I do, which means I find it hard to switch off at nights, weekends and holidays! I can’t wait until the boys are old enough to join us on some challenges around the world!

www.charitychallenge.com

 

What to look for when buying a sleeping bag

What does it all mean?

In Europe, the EN 13537 standard normalizes the temperatures at which a sleeping bag can be used. Tests provide four temperatures:

Upper limit is the highest temperature at which a ‘standard’ adult man is able to have a comfortable night’s sleep without excess sweating.  This rating is not normally used by sleeping bag manufacturers.

The three key rating to look at are:

Comfort rating is based on a ‘standard’ adult woman having a comfortable night’s sleep.

Lower limit is based on the lowest temperature at which a ‘standard’ adult man is deemed to be able to have a comfortable night’s sleep.

Extreme rating is a survival only rating for a ‘standard’ adult man. This is an extreme survival rating only and it is not advisable to rely on this rating for general use.

So when you’re selecting a sleeping bag for your trip look at the temperatures you are likely to experience and pick a sleeping bag with a COMFORT RATING which matches the lower temperature you will find.

Getting a good night’s sleep!

When in your sleeping bag you lose more heat through the ground than the air, so it’s important to insulate yourself by using a good sleeping mat, we recommend an inflatable mat with built in insulation such as the Thermarest NeoAir or Exped Synmat (see: http://goo.gl/amdpp ), which both have built in insulation. While in your bag it’s also a good idea to tighten the shoulder collar and hood drawstrings in order to trap your body warmth inside the bag.

If you feel the cold, it may be a good idea to add a fleece liner to your kit list which will add extra warmth to your sleeping bag.  Also getting up in the middle of the night for a pee is an easy way to get cold, so consider taking a pee bottle, to save getting up. For Outdoorhire’s selection of sleeping bags and liners which have been tested for their selected environment see: http://goo.gl/QOzi9

 

Special thanks to  outdoorhire.co.uk for writing this blog for Charity Challenge.

 

Charity Challenge attend launch of BS8848

Last week the Operations Team at Charity Challenge all ventured down to the Royal Geographic Society for the launch event  of the revised standard BS8848, the British Standard for organising and managing adventurous activities outside the UK.

Originally launched in 2007 the standard was the first standard of its kind in the UK to help adventure activity providers to run safer adventurous trips outside of the UK. The revised standard, launched yesterday, has now stripped away much of the complexity of the original standard to create a more streamlined and useable set of guidelines. It was very pleasing to hear that many of the comments made regarding the original standard had been taken on-board and Charity Challenge are fully supportive of the new standard.

In 2013 Charity Challenge launched its own safety management system called Challenge Safe. We are extremely proud of this comprehensive in-house safety management system and we have already introduced many changes to the way we operate on the ground based on these far reaching safety guidelines and minimum standards. The revised BS8848 provides a set of guidelines that demonstrate best practice. However it is not within the remit of this standard to offer guidance as to how to conform to these guidelines. What Challenge Safe offers is a system for implementing these guidelines so that there is a real change in safety standards. The operations team will be taking a close look at the revised BS8848 and going through our challenges trip by trip to look into how compliance with this new standard will work alongside Challenge Safe to make our challenges even safer. BS8848 is designed to represent the minimum standard required for managing risk in adventurous travel overseas. From Charity Challenge’s point of view we want to make sure that we are not only adhering to these minimum standards but that, through Challenge Safe, we continue to lead the way in being the foremost challenge company when it comes to our participants’ safety.

The real challenge lies in making sure that documents such as BS8848 and Challenge Safe are being adhered to on the ground. To this end both Andy and Carmel from the Operations Team will be delivering training in Tanzania and Peru over the coming months aimed at educating our ground teams on the use of these safety documents.

Jo’s adventure cycling through majestic Burma

Bizarrely the thing I have noticed most since I’ve been cycling in Burma is you just don’t sweat! Maybe I’m used to the humidity of a jungle environment but Burma is barren and the heat is dry!

The temperature is 37 degrees and, and after being transferred out of Mandalay to a small town on the outskirts, we begun our Burma Cycle challenge. I have now been cycling for a couple of hours in the heat. I imagined that the pagodas would be hidden away, but to my surprise it’s not very long before I spot one! And then another and another, and finally the most magnificent temple as the icing on the cake!  While we were in Mandalay we had the pleasure of coming across a street where the gold umbrellas of a Stupa (a Buddhist monument) are hand chiseled and crafted into this striking piece of art that is so common on Burmese temples. Watching it be transformed from a solid lump of metal to the beautiful artwork that we see is incredible.

The second thing I notice in Burma is the astounding kindness and genuineness of the people. They are always willing to help where they can. We hear calls of “Min guh la ba” (Hello!) from all ages as we pass. I’ve been cycling for 30 minutes before I notice that my handlebar frame is slightly off centre, so we stop to fix it and before long we have a team of mechanics by our side. Older men are squatting to help support our bike, their hands holding up the frames and wheels, while the children’s intrigued eyes are watching my guide, Zaw Lin, at work. These are, I have to say, the nicest people I have met so far!

Today we are on route to Bagan to find something that’s a little off the beaten track, and we stumble across a village with locals making incense and pots. The village roads (a.k.a. dirt trails) prove to be a little sandy, making cycling tricky, but the warmth from the villagers is just what we came here for. We get stuck behind a herd of goats and their master, which is picture perfect. Turning a corner we see a magnificent temple so out of place in this tiny village. Yet this is Burma so not out of place at all!
Our detour comes to an end and we are back on the road heading to Bagan, where we are picked up for a two hour boat ride up the river with an entrance view of the temples of Bagan. What a reward for a long hot dusty cycle. Later that evening we take our bikes to cycle the temples and watch the sunset! If cycling in Burma always had these rewards at the end, then the challenge will be a breeze!

We depart Bagan for Mount Popa, where our gently undulating terrain turns to a few short steeper climbs. However, the good news is that for every uphill there is a wonderful downhill! I soon start cursing those mountain bike wheels as they stick to the tar road and, despite building up a fair speed, don’t get me anywhere near close to even starting the next hill! So I drop my gears and slowly but surely start the climb as the sun is so kindly showing its intensity once again. Wishing I had trained for hilly terrain I am feeling that burn when a group of kids pop out waving and shouting hello. This helps to spur me on, and on passing them I see my shaded resting point where a cold glass of water and a good body stretch is waiting for me.

It’s been a tough climb today to Mount Popa but once again the reward is always there. After climbing 770 steps up to the temple I can see what I’ve achieved, as my cycle route meanders off into the distance!

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