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Meet the team: Alex Crouch

Alex Crouch joined Charity Challenge as our Adventure Travel Consultant and looks after all the important administrative processes within the company, including online registrations, insurance policies and group bookings. Alex plays a vital role in the delivery of Charity Challenge’s national and international expeditions, and is integral to the smooth running of the team. We grabbed five minutes with Alex, to find out about her background and what she enjoys most about her job…

Name: Alex Crouch

Location: London, UK

How long have you been working at Charity Challenge?
Two months – and it’s gone so fast!

Tell us a little bit about your background and what you did before joining Charity Challenge?
I grew up in London and started my career working in the ski industry, selling ski holidays all over the world and getting to explore plenty of destinations across the Alps. I was looking for a way to explore a larger variety of countries, and Charity Challenge seemed like the perfect place to do that. I’ve also had experience working in the charity sector at Save the Children, so Charity Challenge was the perfect place to combine my love of charity work and adventure travel.

What’s your favourite Charity Challenge expedition?
There are so many challenges that look incredible, and I’m hoping to sample one soon! I’d love to go to countries such as Burma or Kyrgyzstan which are less traveled and provide a real sense of adventure.

How many countries have you visited?
I’ve been lucky enough to explore at least 30 countries so far – and there’s so many more to discover!

Where’s next on your list of travel destinations?
I’d absolutely love to go to Oman – it’s right next door to Dubai, but still has so much mystery about it. Charity Challenge have recently launched their Oman Mountain Trek, which looks demanding but equally rewarding. The harsh climate and tough terrain would provide a real sense of achievement at the end!

What’s your favourite cuisine?
Italian if we’re close to home, or South East Asian (Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese… it’s all delicious!)

What three things can’t you live without?
A photo-taking device, my skis and food – not for survival reasons, I just love cooking and eating different food!

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself…
When I was younger, I was in a documentary about babies. They took me to the zoo…

Meet the team: Mark Borton

Mark Borton is Charity Challenge’s Marketing Manager, and responsible for managing and maintaining the website, delivering our social media strategy, all-things digital analytics related and planning our marketing campaigns. We sat down with him for five minutes to find out more about what inspires him…

Name: Mark Borton

Location: London, UK

How long have you been working at Charity Challenge?
Only six weeks so far – but so far so good!

Tell us a little bit about your background and what you did before joining Charity Challenge?
I’m originally from Melbourne, Australia, where I spent most of my life. Prior to arriving in the UK, I worked for the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Australia, managing their marketing and advertising. However, my partner and I had always dreamed of something different, so two years ago we quit our jobs and travelled around the world. We ended up in London a year ago and haven’t looked back since. London is a place I’ve always wanted to live.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Being part of a small team means I’ve got greater responsibility than ever before. Previously, I was a small cog in a big team – now, I’m a big cog in a small team. It’s also great to see tangible results and know you had a large part to play in the success.

How many countries have you visited?
At least 40+. I’ve been very fortunate and travelled from an early age.

What’s your favourite Charity Challenge expedition, and why?
I’m interested in off-the-beaten-track destinations, and Madagascar fascinates me. Hopefully, fingers crossed, I’ll be able to explore the country one day.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to do a Charity Challenge?
Enjoy the experience! It’s not a holiday – but the reward for completing something you’ve worked hard to achieve is far better than any relaxing holiday on the beach can provide. You’ll make new friends, experience something incredible, and no doubt be an inspiration to those around you. And that’s pretty cool.

What’s your favourite continental cuisine?
I really can’t look past authentic Italian food. It’s so simple, yet brilliant. That being said, I do find Indian, Portuguese, Moroccan and Thai food completely delicious!

What 3 things can’t you live without?
I probably couldn’t live without my camera, which is always attached to my arm. I should probably mention my partner here, so I’ll add her in! And, finally, the ability to travel and explore. Life wouldn’t be complete without any of those three.

What would your autobiography be called?
I did it my way.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I was the Australian 50m freestyle champion when I was 14 years old…

Work For Us: Marketing Manager

Due to expansion of the team, an exciting opportunity has arisen for a creative and ambitious marketer to join one of the UK’s leading international and national adventure travel and event management companies for the charity sector as their Marketing Manager.

Based in London, the successful candidate will be responsible for the promotion and engagement of the company’s high profile international and national challenge events for the charity and corporate markets. Working across creative, data, digital and sales together with being responsible for our video strategy, you will be highly motivated and driven to work for a reputable brand that keeps on growing.

The role is an all-encompassing one; the primary responsibility of the Marketing Manager will be to own and lead the strategic digital marketing plan for our events and ensure growth by delivering results against KPIs. The Marketing Manager will be given the freedom to make the role as large, creative and exciting as they want, working both autonomously and as part of a very talented team.

For more information please see the Job Description.

To apply please send your CV and cover letter detailing why you would be suitable for the role to susan@charitychallenge.com. Applications close on 4th September 2017 and a competitive salary will be offered based on experience.

Packing hints and tips for overseas adventures

Packing for an overseas expedition, particularly if it’s your first one, can be a challenge in itself. Thankfully we’ve picked up lots of advice over the years, when it comes to packing effectively. Erika, our Charity Account Manager, shares some of her top tips to make packing your kit as easy as possible…

USE YOUR KIT LIST
Every expedition has a suggested kit list, which outlines everything you need to bring for that particular challenge. Use this to ensure that you have everything you need to be able to complete your challenge, and tick items off when you’ve bought them and packed them.

ENSURE YOUR KIT IS CLEAN AND DRY BEFORE YOU START PACKING
Your clothing should be clean and dry, and footwear should be cleaned properly in advance too. Don’t place muddy trainers in your rucksack next to your clearn clothing (place them inside a carrier bag to protect your clothes from any dirty marks).

TAKE EAR PLUGS AND AN EYE-MASK
Whilst these are useful for any long-haul/overnight flights, they’re also handy to have if you happen to be staying in a noisy campsite or hostel. It’s important to try and get a good night’s rest and some decent zZzzs when taking on physically adventurous challenges.

ROLL, ROLL, ROLL (DON’T FOLD)
Rolling clothing takes up less space then folding clothes, and also prevents creasing.

MAXIMISE EVERY BIT OF SPACE
Fill every bit of unused space within your rucksack. Pack socks, tops and other small items inside trainers and shoes to utilise all the space.

WEAR YOUR HIKING BOOTS ON THE PLANE
Don’t pack your walking footwear in your luggage that is getting checked in to the plane’s hold. Whilst we rarely have any lost luggage disruptions, the last thing you will want to do is lose your well-worn-in, trusty walking boots if your main baggage goes missing.

PACK A BUFF AND/OR BANDANA
Whether you’re going somewhere hot and humid, or icy and cold, a buff or bandana will provide you with a variety of uses. In warm climates, you can wear it as a sweat band on your wrist to wipe away perspiration, or to tie your hair up and keep it off your neck/back. In cooler regions, you can wear it around your neck/face to provide extra warmth or as an extra layer under your hat for added protection from the cold.

FIND A HANGING TOILETRIES BAG
Sometimes washing/showering facilities aren’t always functional, so pack a toiletries bag that has a hook so you can hang it on a door or rail.

‘SOCK AND STUFF’ YOUR (DAILY) OUTFIT
(1) Lay all your clothing out for the day.
(2) Place on top of each other in a neat line.
(3) Roll clothing in to a very tight roll
(4) Stuff rolled clothing inside sock
(5) Grab a pair of socks, which will contain your entire day’s worth of clothing

 

Hopefully these packing tips will give you some useful ideas on how to pack for your upcoming expedition. If you have any other queries related to your kit, or packing, please don’t hesitate to contact the Operations Team who will be able to offer you some advice.

Work for us: Operations Manager – Americas & Indian Continents

Be part of an award winning UK based travel company which specialises in organising overseas challenge events in support of charity organisations.

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Charity Challenge is looking for an experienced, passionate, and commercially minded Operations Manager to join their highly driven, ambitious and dynamic operations team.  With your primary focus being on safety and risk management as well as improving and maintaining excellent standards of quality and customer experience, you will manage around 10 different itineraries with 40+ departures throughout the Americas and India.

Ideally you will have previous group/charity tour operation and adventure travel experience and knowledge of principles of safety and risk management. Knowledge of adventure travel in the Americas (North and Latin) and India would also be highly desirable yet not an essential pre-requisite.

For more information, please see the Job Description.

To apply please email your CV together with a covering letter outlining your relevant experience, skills and abilities which match the requirements of the role to Holmes Rogers at holmes@charitychallenge.com

Work for us: Adventure Travel Consultant

Passionate about adventure travel? Want to make a difference? Love providing exceptional customer service and support?

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This is your opportunity to shine as an Adventure Travel Consultant for Charity Challenge, a leading tour operator and event management company who specialise in tailored national and international challenges. We are looking for a passionate individual to join our dynamic Sales, Marketing and Partnerships Team and to help take this exciting part of the business forward whilst providing exceptional customer service. You will inspire, support and prepare participants and groups throughout their pre-travel experiences and become integral in preparing them for their adventure of a lifetime. To achieve this you will exceed in receiving excellent customer feedback, maintain a high degree of accuracy and never ceasing to go the extra mile our participants. If you have an appetite for travel, are driven by providing great service, have fantastic administrative skills, are results driven and genuinely enjoy supporting people, then we would love to hear from you.

For more information, check out the Adventure Travel Consultant Job Description.

To apply please email your CV together with a covering letter outlining your relevant experience, skills and abilities that make you the stand out candidate to susan@charitychallenge.com. Applications close on 15th June 2017. 

Meet the team: Phili Newell

Operations Manager, Phili Newell, joined Charity Challenge in 2016 and looks after all of our adventurous expeditions in Asia.

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Name: Phili Newell

Location: London, UK

What’s your role at Charity Challenge?
I’m the Operations Manager for our expeditions in Asia, which includes looking after our events in Burma, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia and Vietnam. The expedition that keeps me the busiest is the Great Wall Discovery in China, as it’s our most popular and the visa application process can sometimes appear slightly overwhelming, but it’s always worth it.

What’s been your favourite Charity Challenge expedition to take on (so far)?
I took part in the Lombok Lava trek in June 2016, and that was a fantastic challenge. We trekked to some of Indonesia’s highest peaks, and were continually inspired by our amazing team of guides and porters who helped us complete the hike! (Read Phili’s blog about the expedition here).

Did you always want to work in the travel industry?
I’ve always been interested in the travel industry, but I am particularly interested in the NGO sector. Before I worked at Charity Challenge, I spent two and a half years working with an NGO in Borneo, implementing a series of sustainable community and natural resource projects. We took groups of young volunteers to the projects to give them insight into the development sector whilst providing them with transferable skills in leadership and team work. At Charity Challenge, there are many similarities; we offer people the opportunity to experience so many different things, including meeting new people, learning about different cultures and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. When your resilience is tested, you realise your strengths – and it is this that will get you through challenges that you may face in the future (whatever they may be).

What’s your favourite thing about being the Operations Manager for Asia?
Hearing back from participants who have completed one of our challenges – their sense of achievement is infectious and inspiring.

How many languages can you speak?
I would say 1.5… English, and some Japanese!

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about taking on a Charity Challenge?
Make sure that you train properly for your adventure. The more training you do before you go, the more you will enjoy the challenge. And pack light (follow the advice on our Kit Lists, and you can’t go wrong).

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
London – if I could also have a massive garden and a dog!

What three things can’t you live without?
A sense of humour, Marmite and sunlight.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself…
I hitchhiked on sail boats on the Canadian west coast and eventually got to sail to San Francisco after joining a yacht race. I then painted a house so I could get enough money together to leave the USA to get my return flight back to the UK!

5 Reasons to Visit Kyrgyzstan

We’re excited to introduce Kyrgyzstan as our latest challenge destination! A lesser-traveled part of the world, we asked Operations Manager Phili Newell for her top five reasons to visit this fascinating and beautiful country.

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1) Its rich history

Life in Kyrgyzstan is still very much nomadic despite various countries dominating it throughout its history, making it a melting pot of culture in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan gained independence recently in 1991 with the breakup of the former USSR having previously ruled by Mongols; Chinese Manchus; and then Russia since 1876. Evidence of Soviet era is prominent in the giant statue of Lenin and the Soviet styled housing blocks of Bishkek, but as Central Asia’s largest mosque is completed and opens in 2017 you can feel the grip of communism slip away.

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2) It has 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

A landlocked country, Kyrgyzstan is home to 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the Tien Shan mountain range; the network of trading routes making up the famous Silk Road; and Sulayman Mountain the most “sacred” mountain in Central Asia.

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3) The scenery

Kyrgyzstan is a country less visited; the scenery is outstanding and as you trek through the rugged mountains you will wonder why you never thought of coming here before. Snow-capped mountains surround sweeping plains where herds of horses run wild and glacial rivers cut through the landscape, creating steep sided gorges where sheep and goats roam.

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4) The food

Try Kyrgyzstan’s interesting cuisine, starting with the much loved fermented mare’s milk, Besk Barmak, lamb with noodles and broth; Samsy a tandoor cooked meat and onion filled pocket and found at the road side stalls for a quick snack; and dumplings known as Monty.

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5) The challenge

The challenge itself will see you carrying all your own kit, including your tent, for the duration of your trek. You’ll be camping in gorges and trekking over mountain passes at an altitude of 3759m. Your average trek day will be about 6 hours before getting into camp where you’ll set up for the night, before gazing at the clear, star-studded skies.

Make sure you take a look at our Kyrgyzstan Trek challenge and maybe you could be ticking this exciting destination off your wishlist!

7 Inspiring Mountain Quotes

Everyone loves a good inspirational quote on top of a nice photo, so to inspire you to get your walking boots out of the cupboard and head out to bag a peak, here are our top inspiring quotes about mountains!

1.

John Muir

2.

Muhammad Ali

3.

Theodore Roethke

4.

Barry Finlay

5.

David McCullough

6.

Dr Seuss

7.

Edmund Hillary

Which is your favourite? Feel free to share with a friend you’d like to bag a peak with.

choose your challenge

Meet the Leader: Penny Knight

Adventurous expedition leader, Penny Knight, has worked with Charity Challenge for over 7 years on a variety of exciting overseas challenges. From crossing glacial rivers in Iceland to trekking across the sun-drenched Sahara Desert, Penny shares some of her highlights with us…

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Name: Penny Knight

(Current) location: North Yorkshire Dales

What’s been your favourite expedition (so far)?
It’s so hard to decide on one, but I think it has to be the Sumatran Jungle challenge, for so many reasons. I just love the smiley people, hot, humid climate and varied wildlife. The fantastic spicy food, physical variety of the challenge with river wading and steep ascents and descents – along with the remoteness and survival aspects- really make this a true challenge in every sense of the word.

What’s been your most memorable moment on an expedition?
I will never forget climbing the Heavenly Staircase on the Great Wall in China with one particular participants who shared their motivation and story with me. It was incredibly emotional and I remember there were a few tears (from the both of us!) as she conquered the challenge.

What qualities do you think a good expedition leader needs?
Good preparation is vital, and a sense of humour is key! You need to be able to balance caution and confidence simultaneously, and you must have the ability to make decisions quickly whilst remaining calm under pressure. An inherent spirit and wild enthusiasm definitely help, along with the ability to be supportive and empathetic throughout some grueling conditions.

What do you think you would be doing if you were not an expedition leader?
Very sad . . . . . but probably an outdoor centre operations manager ( as I was before I qualified to lead expeditions).

When you’re not hiking up mountains or cycling across countries, what do you do in your spare time?
You will usually find me outside! Yesterday I enjoyed a fantastic 12 mile walk in the Yorkshire Dales. I do enjoy writing about my adventures, and recently published my book, A Knight Fulfilled, which includes some of my experiences from around the world. I do love great food – but not cooking so much! And I love to keep in touch with friends that I have made on these expeditions throughout the years.

What is the best thing about being a leader?
The people you meet – both the participants and the guides in country. I also really enjoy the difference you hope you can make to those who trust you to lead them, and the way you can learn and motivate each other – it is priceless.  It truly gives me a greater thrill than anything else I can think of in life – an excitement, satisfaction, exhilaration, pride, value and enjoyment which cannot be surpassed in any other line of work I’ve come across!

 

Have you been on an expedition with Penny? Did she help you achieve more than you ever thought was possible? Share your experiences and stories with us. Comment below!