Tag Archive for challenge

Why I’m cycling 362 miles for Barnardo’s

Holyhead to Barnardo’s Village Bike Ride

Martin Duffy will be taking part in The Big Barnardo’s Holyhead to Barnardo’s Village Bike Ride this October and raising over £2,150. He tells us a bit more about why he chose this challenge.

You’ve pledged to take part in the Big Barnardo’s Bike Ride for their 150th anniversary. Tell us more!

Ok, well after a bit of stalling, I’ve picked a fundraising challenge – and now I know there is no backing out! I will be cycling 362 miles from Holyhead to Barkingside this autumn, following the route that Thomas Barnardo took when he arrived in the UK in 1866.

Why have you chosen to raise money for Barnardo’s?

As Head of Fulfilment Operations at Barnardo’s, I have seen first-hand the difference that our services can make to children across the UK. Barnardo’s has been transforming children’s lives for 150 years, and I’m determined to ensure that continues. Last year alone, Barnardo’s worked with 240,000 children, young people and families including offering counselling, fostering and adoption services, and disability support. I feel very privileged to be able to take part in this unique challenge event.

What are you most looking forward to about the challenge?

Seeing the finish line at this stage of my training! I think that it is also the opportunity to take part in an event with like-minded individuals.

If you would like to sponsor Martin you can do so on his Justgiving page.

Feeling inspired yourself? Join Martin on what will be an historic bike ride – find out more.

The Legend of Lombok

Operations Manager Phili Newell headed to Indonesia earlier this month to tackle Mount Rinjani, on our Lombok Lava Trek. Here is her account of the 10-day adventure.

As I touch down in Lombok Praya International airport; I am unsure what to expect of this challenge but as I breeze through immigration and see the smiling face of our local leader Brice, all feelings of apprehension are alleviated; and even more so as within the hour I find myself beachside for a delicious local fish dish in the small town of Sengiggi.

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I am pioneering and on recce trip of one of our newest challenges, the summit of Mount Rinjani.  We journey along the coastline and at some point I wake up from my jet lagged slumber to find we’ve turned inland and towards the mountain. Finally we reach our destination and I see for the first time the top of the “hill” peeking out through the clouds. Dusk falls, clouds part and the sun sets bathing the formidable Mount Rinjani in a mystical light and I realise that my initial assessment of this “hill climb” could be wrong. Rinjani stands at an impressive height of 3,726m the tallest volcano on Lombok and as I will find out one of the toughest to summit.

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Next on the agenda is to meet with our local Sasak guides and porters, the team that will be our support for the whole trek. They are friendly from the offset, their knowledge, passion and physical abilities on and about the mountain are second to none; and the chef makes a bloody good chicken curry. After briefs from Brice and the local guide to the rest of the support team and learning about the legend of Princess Anjani (Putri Anjani), after which the mountain is named; I am glad to roll into my bed.

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A day of exploration and planning lies ahead. Brice and I meet with Sar and he shows us the sights of Sembulan, a traditional village surrounded with fertile agricultural lands that sit in the foot hills of the now green lava fields. We visit the volcanologist’s centre to reassure ourselves this thing isn’t going to blow any time soon – it’s not by the way, only the small one inside might, it’s in the risk assessment.

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The group have arrived and it’s only taken us a few hours and decent meal to know that we are going to be a tight team and this challenge is going to epic.

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Briefs done, kit checked, bags packed, sun screen applied, water dispensed and that’s us ready to hit the “hill”. An early start is in order to beat the midday sun on the savannah in the foot hills of the Mount Rinjani. The undulating terrain is pleasant and the views spectacular, but the heat and humidity is stifling. I can see the glistening brilliant blue of the Bali Sea, the Lombok and the Alas Straits and across the way the silhouette of Gunung Agung in Bali. It’s these views that keep my mind off the task at hand, I also stop to take a lot of photos/catch my breath.

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Luckily after lunch and for the steepest climb of the day (actually it’s been up hill all the way) the clouds have rolled in providing us with some much needed coolness. Finally the rim is in sight and we arrive into camp as the sun sets over the crater lake.  A slap up meal and early to bed for all of us, we’ll need all our strength for the summit.

We’ve all read the trip advisor reviews and reckoned that the people who wrote the review must have been a bit wet – I mean really how hard can this summit be?!

01:30am, it sounds like a gale is blowing outside and I’m pretty cosy in my sleeping bag, I don’t really want to move but I tentatively poke my head out of the tent door to be greeted by Eric (one of our chefs) holding out a cup of coffee and the best jam sandwich I’ve tasted in a while. I imagine the rest of the team are going through a similar thought process as I’ve just been through, but when we set off morale is high.  It’s time to tackle this summit. The first section isn’t actually as bad as I thought it would be, it is dark and cold but I seem to have covered some ground. 2 hours into the climb, I’m thanking our amazing porter team for the light breakfast they provided before we started.

3 hours later, 1 step forwards, 3 slides back. I’m talking to myself, cursing ever so slightly under my breath. Walking up this ash and loose rock is beginning to feel like a reoccurring nightmare, and I have no idea if I’ve made any progress. I’ve lost all sense of time, but it is still dark and it is still cold. This is a mental game to reach the top and sure enough before you know it, I’m there, gratefully high fiving some of the more speedy of our team. We’ve made it for sunrise and as we marvel at the scenery all around, tea and biscuits appear. I love these guides!

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The way down from the summit is easier for the most part and once again we are greeted by our support team for a second and bigger breakfast. Around about 10:00am it’s onwards and downwards to our camp by the lake, Segara Anak. Although its downhill, it’s pretty steep and our legs are feeling the burn so we are all looking forward to a much needed soak in the hot springs.

That evening we sit around the campfire and reflect on the day’s achievement, yep made it to the summit of a volcano, trekked for another 9 hours, bathed in a natural hot spring, eaten delicious meals; seen several shooting stars and the milky way – does life get better than this?

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The next couple of days see us venturing into nature’s “spa resorts”. The natural hot springs have carved out caves which become steam rooms; caves that have magical healing powers that can make your wish come true but only if your return to honour it otherwise be damned forever.  It is our last night under the stars so we have a full team dinner with our guides and porters and do some short speeches to say thank you – as let’s be honest here – none of us were getting through this challenge without them to help us along the way.

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The final day of the trek, the route we take is little known to many groups, so it feels as if we are truly alone in the wilderness and this route is only for us.  The views are stunning, waterfalls, river crossings and ladders largely sum up this section of the trek. Some vertigo inducing heights, but always with a solid team to support you and at your side, there is nothing that we can’t achieve together.

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This has been an amazing trip not only for the vistas and the challenge, but for all the people I met along the way, the inspiring stories from our guides and porters. We all had our own reasons for taking part in this challenge but we all did it together.

Have you been inspired to summit one of Indonesia’s highest peaks? Visit our website and sign up today!

The return of the Classic Inca Trail!

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Set your faces to excited, because after almost 10 years, our Classic Inca Trail Challenge is making a much awaited return – September 2016!

Without doubt the most famous trek in South America, The Inca trail, consists of an incredible 4 days trekking 26 miles in the footsteps of the Incas, along the route traditionally used to travel from Cusco city to Machu Picchu.
This amazing trek is coming back to our wide portfolio of challenges in September 2016!

Machu Picchu

So why did we stop trekking the Inca trail?

Up until a couple of years ago, the Inca trail had gained a very bad reputation, it was overcrowded, dirty, with unprofessional tour operators mistreating porters! Charity Challenge, did not want to be part of this, hence the decision to stop operating the Classic Inca Trail challenge for an alternative, more responsible route.

Over the past few years, the Peruvian Government has realized the importance of protecting this world cultural and historical heritage site and consequently decided to implement strict measures in order to preserve this important route:
• Limiting the number of people entering the Inca trail to 500 a day including guides, cooks, porters, etc. with Inca passes issued under the clients name using full passport details. Passes are non-refundable and non transferable.
• Group sizes should not exceed 16 participants, and they should have at least 22 porters and 2 guides.

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• Tour operators, who want to send their clients on the Inca trail, need to undertake a tough application process in which inspectors will go unannounced to the company’s premises to check the equipment (tents, tables, sleeping bags, etc.) are in a suitable condition and that they provide all their porters with all the necessary equipment to do their job. After this checking process they will be issued with a license.
• Guides need to undertake a one week course (additional to the 5 years they have already spent in university) where they learn more about evacuation techniques, how to identify symptoms of hypothermia and AMS and immediate treatment.

Copy of Inca Trail - Clouds in Haze (Sonya Bell)

• The Peruvian government also carries out unannounced audits where they ensure porters are not being forced to carry any weight above the limit imposed by them (20kgs+ 5kgs personal belongings).
• The rubbish should be recycled and carried all the back to the city for proper disposal. Only biodegradable detergents can be used on the Inca trail.
• If a tour operator is found to not comply with any of the above rules, they get fined and their license could get cancelled.
On top of these regulations, responsible tour operators are taking a step forward, doing a bit extra for their porter’s welfare and responsible operation of the Inca trail.

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So why are we re-introducing the Inca Trail?
During the time we were not operating the Classic Inca trail, we put together a beautiful alternative trek through the Lares valley, which still includes one day walking through the last section of the Inca trail, where it is not necessary to have a full team of cooks and porters to go in as you only walk for a few hours. This trek is as demanding as the Inca trail if not a bit more as it goes higher, you have the beautiful scenery of the Andes surrounding you and get to trek through local villages.

Sylvana, our operations manager for our entire South America portfolio, was born and bred in Peru and has done both treks herself on various occasions during her tour leading days! She thought it would be good to offer our participants both options as she believes each trek has “its own charm.”

 

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Sylvana – Operations Manager in her beautiful homeland – Peru!

“Some people love the remoteness of the Lares trek, the fact that they are trekking with hardly any one else apart from their support team, and the fact that they go through local villages while trekking. For others, the fact that they are walking the actual route the Inca’s did while visiting the various archaeological sites on the route, understanding the way they lived and thought at the time, seems a little bit like travelling back in time! People also have the chance to interact with their porters during the Inca trail. I strongly believe both treks are amazingly challenging and they both have enough highlights to attract different kinds of travelers.”

Denise and Fearne's Charity Trek for Breast Cancer - Day 2

What are we doing to operate this trek responsibly and minimise the impact?
As part of our ground handler’s selection process, we always look to work with trusted, reputable and responsible local operators. Amazonas Explorer, our ground handler for the Classic Inca Trail challenge in 2016, is a company who have been working in Peru for over 30 years. They currently run our Cycle Machu Picchu to the Amazon challenge, and they currently have a clean Inca Trail license.

As part of their Responsible Tourism policy they:

  • Joined the 1% for the Planet Program and currently are the only Peruvian Tour Operator who is a member.
  • They donate 1% of their turnover each year to help reforest the Lares area with native trees, where most of their porter’s villages are.
  • Pay porters more than the wage stipulated by the authorities. We pay them at the end of the trek. They do not have to come to Cusco, or wait to collect their money.

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  • Provide a large communal tent with carry mat floor for porters to sleep in, it is not the clients’ dining tent.
  • Provide their porters with plenty of good food. This is not the same menu given to the passengers, but it is nutritious, abundant and what they are used to eating. They have their own cooking facilities so do not have to wait for the clients to finish eating before they get their food.
  • Only use registered Inca trail porters (as Inca trail rules stipulate) – these have to pass several forms of ID, character reference and a letter of good health and to have attended an Inca Trail Porter Awareness course.
  • Provide accident insurance and work contracts for each period of work porters do for us. They are all freelance.
  • Amazonas Explorer holds an annual, end-of-season, and porters’ party and football tournament, amongst other good things!!
  • Our groups will only be of a maximum of 15 participants, the doctor will take place number 16.

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We will only run this challenge twice in 2016, once in September and once in October and will evaluate the feedback and review for 2017!

If you want to take part in this awesome challenge, just click here!

Information Presentation: The North Pole!

Information Presentation about our North Pole Expeditions

1400hrs Friday 19th June 2015

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How you can sign up, train and prepare for an expedition to the Geographic North Pole!

We invite you to come to the prestigious Royal Geographical Society for an information presentation by celebrated polar guide Alan Chambers MBE.

Alan is a polar adventurer who received the MBE for ‘exceptional leadership in extreme adversity’ when he led the first successful unsupported British expedition to the Geographic North Pole, walking 672 nautical miles in temperatures as low as -65°C dragging a sledge the weight of a baby elephant. In preparation for his expedition Alan lived with a family of Inuits, indigenous to the Arctic for between 1 and 2 months every year for 5 years. Alan has since led top business leaders & chief executives to the North Pole in virtually every North Pole season since 2002. The North Pole challenge helped them explore and reflect on their own leadership capabilities.

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During our meeting on 19th June Alan will give a PowerPoint presentation about our North Pole Expeditions and enable you to really understand what is involved in joining one of our Polar expeditions. The April 2016 and April 2017 polar expeditions will be of approximately 14 days including flights. We shall also tell you about an opportunity to go on a short trip to the Arctic Circle in March 2016 and experience what it is like to be on a North Pole expedition.

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Jeremy Gane from Gane and Marshall and Simon Albert from Charity Challenge will also be on hand to answer your questions. Jeremy Gane FRGS, and also a director of Charity Challenge, has been researching and developing North Pole expeditions with Alan and Simon for the last five years. Gane and Marshall has teamed up with Charity Challenge to offer these exclusive North Pole expeditions, guided by Alan Chambers.

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The Information Day will take place on Friday 19th June 2015 from 1400hrs to 1630hrs in the Lowther Room at the Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR. We have arranged for the main presentation to run from 1430-1515hrs, tea and coffee will be served from 1400hrs.

Please let us know if you wish to attend by emailing Jeremy@ganeandmarshall.com

Win a Mini IPad, Kindle HD Fire, Samsung Camera and lots more!

Happy New Year!

To celebrate 15 years of organising Charity Challenges, we are doing a fantastic January Gadget Give-Away!

From Monday (06 Jan) to the end of the month, we will be giving away amazing gadgets EVERY DAY to someone booking on to an overseas challenge!

It’s simple to enter, just make a booking and we will enter you into our prize draw for that day! Prizes on offer include:

Jacqueline Peckham  – Samsung Camcorder
Amanda Sturges – Google Nexus
Mark Gardner – Kindle HD Fire
Anthony Wild – Samsung Camcorder
Jacqueline Jackson – Kindle HD Fire
Nicole Ramsay – Google Nexus
Fiona Rogers – Samsung Camera
Christine Saladas – I Pod Nano
Katie Hazelwood – Samsung Camera
Andrew Kouroushi – Samsung Camera
Samantha Webber-Cadby – I Pod Nano
James Fry – Kindle HD Fire
Martain Miller – Samsung Camcorder
Ahmed Khan – Google Nexus
Gerard McManus – Kindle HD Fire
Nicole Valentine – Mini I Pad
Hilary Lamb – Samsung Camera
Panjaruthnam Govender – Samsung Camcorder
Valerie Smith – Samsung Camera
Colin Cork – I Pod Nano
Janet Brown – i Pod Nano
Angela Rowlands – Google Nexus
Emma-Jane Adam – Samsung Camcorder
Simon Donaldson – I Pod Nano
Aoibhne O’Neill – Kindle HD Fire
Victoria Kennell – Mini I Pad

Congratulations to all of you!

We are now recruiting for the position of Operations Manager

background

Our company (Challenges (Un)Limited, trading as Charity Challenge) has been in business for twelve years and is currently 13 people strong. We work exclusively for the charity sector, raising funds for worthwhile causes. We operate treks, bike rides, mountain climbs, skydives and other adventure travel itineraries, whereby our clients raise money for charity through their participation. We operate about 100+ challenges a year and have raised over £35m for 1300+ UK and Irish registered charities to date. We have also just launched a new operation out of Toronto, Canada for the North American market.

To round off the first decade for Charity Challenge, we organised the very successful BT Red Nose Day Climb for Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh, Ronan Keating, Chris Moyles, Denise Van Outen, Alesha Dixon, Ben Shephard and Fearne Cotton which raised over £3.35million for Comic Relief.

The company has gone from strength to strength developing an excellent reputation both within the corporate and charity sectors, donating tens of thousands of pounds to local community projects in the countries in which we operate, and building houses, schools and health centres in developing countries as part of our award winning community challenge programme.

the role

We are looking to recruit someone with experience, drive and passion to join our operations team as an Operations Manager. We would expect you to manage a variety of challenges in different countries in which we operate amounting to approximately 10 different itineraries with 40+ departures in up to 11 different countries.  You will work within an operations team of 5 and will report to the Head of Operations.

The role will be one of overseeing and accepting responsibility for the day to day challenge preparation, organisation and operation, including liaison with ground handlers, the flights team, the sales team, the charities with whom we work and the passengers who book on to our challenges, making sure we offer the very highest levels of service and seamless efficiency to our clients and also you will ensure that we are operating to the highest standards of safety (as set out in “Challenge Safe,” our in-house Safety Management System) and quality as well as adhering to good responsible tourism practice.

The role includes:

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Pre-challenge:

  • Reviewing and updating all safety documentation for your challenges
  • Booking new departure dates in cooperation with the sales team
  • Researching and setting up new itineraries
  • Monitoring pax numbers, ensuring/monitoring profitability in liaison with the finance team
  • Liaising with ground handlers to ensure all operational details are correct, that any ad hoc changes or difference to exclusive itineraries have been organised and accounted for and any extra costs passed to the sales team.
  • Managing the ground handlers and negotiating rates. Dealing with queries from clients regarding all elements of the challenges and briefing leaders
  • Liaison with the flights team to ensure group flight schedules are all uploaded, leaders’ and medics’ flights are booked, extensions, add-ons and special requests are all in order ensuring any queries are answered and the challenge is running smoothly, handling emergencies / crisis (on call duty including evenings and weekends on a rota basis).
  • Dealing with feedback from the field (from clients and challenge leaders), liaising with ground handlers with a view to implementing changes to improve the programme in order to avoid re-occurrence of problems.  Being pro-active to avoid future complaints, following up on feedback from comments where necessary.

During-challenge:

  • Ensuring ground handlers in each country are working within their contract with Charity Challenge (carrying out all of the ground arrangements including hotels, food, transfers and so on).

Post-challenge:

  • Dealing with feedback from the field (from clients and challenge leaders), liaising with ground handlers with a view to implementing changes to improve the programme in order to avoid re-occurrence of problems.  Being pro-active to avoid future complaints, following up on feedback from comments where necessary.

General:

  • Taking responsibility for the maintenance and improvement of the quality and most importantly, the safety of your challenges – including training and ongoing appraisal of both UK and local leaders.
  • Assisting with the recruitment and training of both UK and local leaders as required
  • Liaising with the flights department regarding airlines and fares to ensure the correct flights are booked for all your challenges and that the agreed fares are within budget.
  • Liaising with clients: helping them prepare for their challenge, sending out visa application info, vaccinations, kit list etc, joining instructions, updates to their itineraries and flight details etc.  Collate challenge feedback and respond where necessary to problems.  Assisting clients with insurance claims on their return etc.
  • Ensuring challenge leaders and doctors on your challenges have signed off contracts.  Ensuring challenge leaders and doctors are prepared for their challenge with briefings, manual and relevant documents.
  • Organising and conducting a debrief post-challenge and detailed information fed back to the ground handler.
  • Prepare and ensure all customer facing documents are up to date and accurate on the website –  Q&A / fact file / itinerary / kit list
  • Attending WTM and other trade exhibitions as appropriate/required
  • Cross checking invoices from ground handlers and ensuring payment is made promptly
  • Assessing current costs and seeing where cost reductions could be made. Acquiring shadow quotes and negotiating with ground handlers to reduce those costs
  • Product Development – developing new challenges in liaison with the Operations and/or Sales team
  • Bespoke challenges – assisting in tailor making exclusive group challenges: sourcing ground handler, devising itinerary to client specifications, liaison with GH and negotiating cost.
  • Management of and responsibility for operations-based projects as per requirements

marketing

  • Assess levels of in country branding on your challenges and make recommendations to the marketing team
  • Blog Writing within your country areas.
  • Product and Sales Webinars and Presentations.

 what we are looking for

  • We are of course looking for someone with the relevant group/charity tour operation experience who has a sound knowledge of principles of safety and risk management.
  • Someone with adventure travel experience on at least two continents. Ideally but not essentially, you will have spent some time in South America and have had experience leading or acting as a charity representative on an expedition (although this is not an absolute pre-requisite).
  • In addition, we are looking for someone who is highly organised and process driven  with an excellent level of attention to detail to manage this area of our business.
  • Specifically, you should be able to manage your time efficiently, prioritise work loads and competently project manage many tasks, with a high level of care and attention to detail all at the same time.
  • You should also have the ability to take the initiative with regards to running your own portfolio of challenges and be a confident and competent communicator with clients and overseas ground handlers.
  • You will mainly be using Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Microsoft Outlook as well as our in-house database.

 what you can expect from us

  • We are a small business, friendly office in North London, full of people with passion for what they are doing.  It is a lively and busy environment. This is a chance to do something special, and work not only in the travel but also charity sector.
  • The job will also include experiencing the challenges and or conducting recces so will include some international travel.
  • Salary is negotiable depending on experience.
  • Mon-Friday 0900-1730hrs. One week in 4 will be spent on 24 hour emergency duty
  • 27 Days holiday a year plus your birthday as a bonus day off, and one extra day each year for up to an additional three years.

you can be part of our unique organisation helping to change people’s lives and raise millions for charity!

To apply for this role email your CV along with a covering letter to challenges@charitychallenge.com.

Application Deadline: Tuesday 18th June 2013