Tag Archive for Charity

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.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough…

This time last year, over 20 ambitious fundraisers trekked the Welsh 3000s for Mind, the mental health charity. Captained by TV Presenter, Matt Johnson, and with actor Nicholas Pinnock (most recently in ITV drama, Marcella), 28-year-old support worker Ceri Parker took on the 24 hour endurance challenge, and shares his story…

Ceri, with fellow trekker, Nicholas Pinnock in Snowdonia

Ceri, with fellow trekker, Nicholas Pinnock in Snowdonia

Why did you sign up to the challenge, Ceri?

I signed up to the challenge in memory of my cousin, who committed suicide in 2014. The anniversary was the week after the challenge, so it felt poignant.

Who did you raise money for?

I raised money for MIND because I wanted to save lives of people who felt there was no future due to their mental health, like my cousin felt.

Had you ever taken part in a challenge event like this before?

I’ve done a few 10k runs, and am generally fit, but nothing as big as the 3000s challenge! It’s definitely the biggest physical challenge I have ever undertaken.

How did you go about training for the event?

I joined a local walking group and did some long walks once a week, and continued to play sports on the weekend. Plus lots of gym sessions to get my legs used to those mountains!

How did you fundraise for the challenge?

I created a page on Facebook and encouraged all of my friends and family to like it. I would post updates about my training, and upcoming fundraising events. I also used it to give facts about mental health in men, and linked to articles in newspapers. I did some face-to-face collections at work, and the local football club – everyone was so generous with their donations.

What was your biggest highlight during the challenge?

I think the biggest highlight had to be finishing the trek after 24 hours, with a group of AMAZING people who all had smiles on their faces! Plus, raising over £70,000 for MIND was also a rather special highlight.

What advice would you give anyone who was thinking of taking on a similar challenge for charity?

The best advice I could give would just be: GO FOR IT! No challenge is too daunting, Charity Challenge were brilliant throughout so you’re in safe hands. And don’t forget to enjoy it – you’ve earned it!

Where is your dream challenge destination, and why?

I would love to do a cycling challenge next. Maybe across Europe or around the UK. Tour De France is an inspiring event where millions of people line the streets and cheer on the cyclists. Maybe taking part in a London to Paris event and finishing along the Champs Elysees would be pretty special…

If you are interested in following in Ceri’s footsteps and would like to take part in a challenge for Mind, there are still places left on their Kilimanjaro Summit Climb (7-18th October 2016). Visit the event page to find out more…

The return of the Classic Inca Trail!

Jose llama

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.”

 

Sylvana

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.

Machu Picchu

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!

In China we say Ni Hao

Emotional goodbyes at terminal 5; Mums, Dads and friends not lucky enough to be coming with us. Ten hours on a plane is long enough to send anyone doolally, but British airways do their best to ease the pain. We stumble off the plane at 2am London time like zombies, heading for a new adventure. Stomachs are tense, eyes are bleary, minds are jittery. All soon put at ease by our local guides, Jason and Ming; no, sorry, ‘Tony’.

We learn that ‘in china we say Ni Hao’. ‘Ni Hao Jason’; ‘Ni Hao Tony’.

Head straight to Beijing Olympic park for a warm-up walk. Lots of familiar buildings, bird’s nest and water cube, plus a new tower under construction which apparently will be Beijing’s highest tea house. Yet, as always in China, it seems that we are the attraction – the Chinese delight in our presence; waving, smiling and shyly taking opportunities to say hello. The only ones not interested are the kids, fiercely coddled by their mothers and forever scowling.

The weather is muggy, and you can’t help but wonder if this is the result of rapid, coal fired in-dustrialisation. A quick lunch at a nearby restaurant where everyone falls asleep in their soup, and then onto the bus for the journey out of Beijing. Suicidal traffic manoeuvres are glimpsed through heavy eyelids, though our driver, Master Jung (for ‘he has the skills of a shaolin master’) seems to have it all under control. His wrath is reserved for fools who dawdle in his lane in their blinged up BMW’s as he sticks religiously to the speed limit, flashing his lights at them repeatedly.

‘Impression lodge’ has a warm welcome, though favourable impressions are reserved until after dinner, which is an excellent buffet (they even throw in some chips to spoil us). We celebrate Tamara’s birthday, there is cake, drunken Chinese businessmen proposing toasts, and a round of beers outside to finish us off. Day one complete!

‘Black Dragon Pools…and the steps begin!!’

It’s a jolly morning; everyone is eager for their first day’s trekking and glad of a proper sleep. Most eager and jolly is Dave, who managed to drink 10 beers last night; can’t work out if he’s jolly or still drunk, but that’s just Dave; a happy chappy to say the least 🙂 Master Jung navigates a short ride to Black Dragon Pools, the location for today’s trek. A lot of construction in and around the road, it seems the farmers in this area have found a new crop – tourists.

Jason has the mic for the journey, and we practice our new mandarin phrases – ‘Ding ding hao’ (very very good) rolls off the tongue with ease, the rest are quickly forgotten.

The Black Dragon Pools consist of a series of gorgeous natural pools and waterfalls in a gorge in the shadow of the great wall. This stunning natural wonder has been ‘enhanced’ by all the extras that Chinese tourists seem to want – giant rubby duckies, zorb balls, the latest hits blaring out of speakers hidden in rocks and numerous signs telling us what and what not to do. We ascend the steps at a decent pace, stopping to regroup occasionally and exchange pleasantries with local tourists, before reaching the temple at the top, whereupon we pass through a locked gate into an area marked ‘no visitors’. It soon becomes apparent that this sign is here as there isn’t really a path, and we scramble up quite a steep slope through overgrown jungle, the theme tune to Indiana Jones ringing in our ears. No drama though, and we soon reach a tarmac road where the going is a lot easier. No one seems quite sure why this road has been built, we only see one car on it during the next hour, which turns around and comes back to get a better look at us – there are also ominous big brother style cameras watching precisely nothing, well, except us. First views of the great wall – there’s an ancient watchtower overhead on a small hill with faint outlines of old wall snaking out along the ridgeline. We leave the road to scramble up to the watchtower and are rewarded with magnificent views down to the valley below; you can just make out the entrance to black dragon pools where we started many hours ago, and a river valley with fertile fields either side. There is a Chinese character carved into the field next to the river, which apparently says’ beautiful Great Wall’, though our guesses vary from ‘silly foreigners go home’ to ‘McDonalds next exit’. The scramble down from the watchtower makes the ascent seem like a doddle, as we hack our way through the jungle on a very indistinct track, following the path of the wall as it makes its way down the mountain. Sometimes we walk on sections of the old wall, which are very narrow in places and have rather alarming drop-offs on either side. You often lose sight of the person in front of you through the overgrowth and the silences are broken by blood-curdling screams – fortunately these are the result of an encounter with a nasty looking spider or centipede rather than anyone falling off the edge.

After 90 rather tense minutes we reach the bottom where Master Jung awaits us with the comfort of the bus. Back at impression lodge the staff out-do themselves, providing an excellent BBQ and a plentiful supply of cold beers to calm our nerves and reward our 1st day efforts. The night ends around a campfire in the courtyard, beers are flowing and the obligatory sounds of Gangnam style are on repeat. There may have even been a dance-off but hopefully that’s one video of this trip that will never see the light of day.

Day 2 done and dusted, an eventful and memorable introduction to the unpredictable nature of china and the spectacular scenery that awaits us on the great wall.

THE GREAT WALL

And so to the highlight of the trip, The Great Wall itself. There are still a few remnants of another boozy night but we set off in good spirits and jump on the bus to the sounds of Auld Lang Syne, which Impression Lodge have been playing on repeat for the past hour, perhaps to hurry us on our way, though Jason claims the Chinese version means ‘friends forever’; either way, we are sad to leave Impression behind as they have looked after us excellently and we will stay friends forever, at least in memory.

We reach the Gubeiko gateway, our entrance to the wall, and enjoy an enthusiastic warm up by Georgia and Elicia . Then the trekking begins, and it is a hot quick march up to the wall, which is not restored in this area and provides some exhilarating moments when you walk along narrow, crum-bling sections with drop-offs on either side. Those not wearing brown trousers soon are. Still, the views are absolutely magnificent as the wall snakes along endless mountains into the distance. This is the picture postcard image of the wall, the one google images offers you, the National Geo-graphic special, the money-shot. The haze has burnt off and it promises to be a hot and sunny day. We reach a restored section of the wall where the going is easier and the old watchtowers are re-stored to some of their former glory – they offer a welcome respite from the sun and we stop to lunch in one of them. Then the real fun begins as we have to meander off the wall and around a military base – this area is totally closed to the public so we take small village paths through corn fields and along ridges parallel to the wall. The scramble back up to the wall is slightly hairy as we negotiate a vertigo inducing narrow ledge with the wall on one side and nothing on the other – there’s only one way to fall and it doesn’t look pretty. Of course this is the moment Dr Fox chooses to call live from Magic FM for an interview with Denise, and I find myself running along the ledge with the phone in one hand and some-ones bag in the other. Being the pros that we are the interview is pulled off without a hitch and Denise is live on the radio from the Great Wall – a moment to remember. After climbing back onto the wall we proceed along a nicely restored section for another hour before reaching our destination for the night, Jinshanling. The Jinshanling Lodge is a large ramshackle place with lots of little courtyards which appear to be straight out of ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’. We have a good feed at dinner although it doesn’t have the intimacy of Impression Lodge, toasts by drunken Chinese businessmen are swapped for toasts by other tour groups. After dinner Jason teaches us to write our names in Mandarin and threatens that there will be a test on this tomorrow night, which no-one is looking forward too. We then visit the paper-cutting family for a demonstration of this ancient Chinese art and everyone is suitably impressed to part with a few quid for a souvenir to take home. An early night tonight as it’s been a long hot day, even Dave lays off on the beers.

JINSHANLING LOOP

Another beautiful morning; not a cloud in the sky, just the ever present wall looming picturesquely overhead. Warm up duties today are performed in the shadow of the wall by the ever enthusiastic Dave; highlights include the funky chicken and pretend you’re a cow – perhaps not the most physiologically sound warm up, but very entertaining nonetheless. Being suitably enthused we send a group “Get Well Julie!” Message to Dave’s wife back home, who was meant to join us on the trek
this week but has stayed at home for more chemotherapy – just one of the many sad yet inspiring stories that have brought the group here and gelled them all together for this challenge.

We climb up to the wall and begin the now familiar pattern up ascending seemingly never-ending stairs and counting down watch-towers. Today’s total is 15 towers, which we can see snaking off over the mountains into the horizon. The sun is beating down and it is tough going on some sections, but if you can manage 100 odd stairs in one sitting, then you can manage this. And everyone here can manage 100 stairs, certainly when they are as driven towards fundraising for their charities as this lot. We reach the 15h tower and stop for a well deserved packed lunch – those of us who still have energy to burn decide to negotiate 3 final towers towards the closed off Simitai section of the Great Wall. This is a section of the wall that is closed off due to renovation and these towers are really hard to access so it is up to the fittest members of the group to take up the challenge for us – step forward Catherine and Clare who return after 30mins without even breaking a sweat.

We re-group and head down to the bus where the ever vigilant Master Jung awaits us to take us 2hours to our nights’ accommodation. We pass through a brand new town with mock European style townhouses, Dutch windmills, massive lake side villas and a huge egg shaped ho-tel/conference centre under construction. It all seems a bit bizarre to say the least, particularly when I learn that this massive building project throwing up a huge cloud of dust and pollutants is taking place here as it’s an area with ‘good air’.

Our lodge for the night is called Fairyland and has a large number of buildings dotted around a river in a gorge – quite a pretty setting. We explore the riverside decking which doubles as a bar, one of the restaurants where the food is decent and plentiful, and then on to the karaoke bar where the winners of the ‘write your name in Mandarin’ challenge are rewarded with a Charity Challenge buff and the losers are made into a karaoke team and perform a rather cringe worthy version of Fernando. Still, not as embarrassing as my version of Old Macdonald which warmed everyone up, but that’s another story…

HEAVENLY STAIRWAY

Today we tackle the most tourist friendly section of the wall at Mutianyu, and the much anticipated Heavenly Stairway. It lives up to expectation with loads of stalls selling souvenirs ranging from Obama t-shirts to cuddly pandas to chopsticks; we run the gauntlet and manage to hold on to all our cash as we have a mission to accomplish. There is a cable car leading up to the wall here, and a toboggan run leading down from it, but as usual we’re doing things the hard way, with nearly 1000 steps to ascend before we even reach the wall. Once on the wall it’s relatively easy going, and there are lots of tourists dressed accordingly in flip flops and skirts – we stamp our authority as hardcore trekkers with our walking poles and our boots. The path undulates along a few towers before the dreaded Heavenly Stairway comes into view – this is a continuous section of 300-400 steps leading straight up the mountain, seemingly into the heavens. It’s a steep climb and a challenge for all, but by this stage we’re old pros and we ascend with comparative ease to the sweating masses. At the top we have a round of high fives and a group photo, before heading back down, some of us braving the swaying cable car, others opting to rely on their own pistons. Our reward for the day’s efforts is a footlong Subway and a decent coffee before we jump on the bus and head to a jade factory to see what it’s all about…Well it appears the jade factory was all about making money – incredibly they had one piece on sale for $61,000, which not even Alan could afford. Still, a few trinkets were bought by a few of us and the tour made for an interesting diversion. We then made out way to our hotel for the night, Juyonngang Lodge, where the staff were rather mean and but the rooms were rather good so we forgave them for it. Jason scared us all at dinner with the briefing for tomorrow, which is apparently his least favourite day of the trek and involves a constant ascent. Sounds ominous.

BADALING

Badaling Badaling Bada-ling; it rolls off the tongue rather nicely don’t you think. Well, Badaling Old Section is the location for today’s trek, the final section of our adventure on the Great Wall. First, we have to find it, for the mists have closed in and it’s hard to see more than 20metres. Still, Master Jung has the skills and the instincts necessary for any bus driver, and finds his way to the wall (in all honesty, it’s very well signposted, even in English).

We stop for our tree planting ceremony, inspired by Chris Edwards, who’s planting a tree in memory of her late husband, Mick. 13 of us think this sounds like a nice idea, so we also opt to partake, some of us choosing to commemorate a loved one, some of us looking towards the future, such as Steph and Chris, our honeymooners. The mists are still swirling around us and it makes for an evocative and reflective atmosphere, very fitting.

Tree planting done and photos taken we make our way to the wall, for the beginning of our last ascent. Unfortunately Jason wasn’t fibbing, and we climb steadily for the duration of the morning. There are still mists all around and it’s easy to lose sight of the people in front of you as you naturally separate into small groups of similar ability. There is the sound of shouting and beating drums coming up from below which is easy to imagine is the sound of armies advancing on our wall, though Jason assures its office workers on a day out.

The mists clear as we ascend higher and the sun warms up and it turns into a beautiful last day on the wall. In these remote mountains the wall is not restored and it is easy to transport your imagination back centuries to when it was built. You can’t help wonder if all this effort was completely pointless; there’s no-one here to defend now, how many people must there have been when it was constructed millennia ago?! Still, it makes for very pretty trekking, and the deteriorated sections make a decent challenge for the final day’s trek. We reach the top at about midday to an enthusiastic series of high fives and a few emotional hugs and kisses – it’s been an incredible jour-ney for some of us to get this far, and I don’t have the prose to sum it up sufficiently, you’ll have to come yourself next year instead 😉

For more information on our Great Wall Discovery, please click here. If you have any questions on this challenge, please contact Jo, our Ops Manager on jo@charitychallenge.com. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Our Challenge Leader Penny Knight shares her experience with her Great Wall Trekkers April 2013

Before even meeting my great wall trekkers, I sensed a friendly, sociable and self motivated bunch as I approached the collection of people sprawled on the floor of Terminal 3 chatting excitedly.

As we trekked along the wall, climbing up steep ledges and clambering over broken stone steps, the real life stories started to emerge.  By the end of the trek, I realised that I had been incredibly privileged to spend such a memorable time with such an inspiring group.

Margaret, Kerri and Andy Chapman were a pleasure to spend time with, although I didn’t see much of them as they disappeared over the horizon! They had trained hard together prior to the challenge, were fit and driven, never failed to smile and effortlessly worked together as a family unit.

Edel McCaul and I walked together for much of the trek and my distraction tactics to encourage Edel up the numerous steps resulted in me discovering more and more about her astonishing story.  Edel was walking in memory of her beloved Grandfather who had died of cancer.  She had always felt a close bond with him and before he passed away she had vowed to do a challenge for him that took her out her comfort zone. After a selfless act whilst a teacher had resulted in an accident which left her in a wheelchair, Edel had worked on walking and then being able to get up a flight of steps. This challenge caused her severe pain in both knees but she remained determined throughout, conquering every step of her Great Wall Challenge.

Despite a heart condition, Marie (with her trusted colleague, Edel at her side) overcame many individual challenges, resulting often in tears which were instantly followed by laughter.  Marie had a naturally upbeat and jovial nature and nothing got her down for long.

Donna Freeman was another inspirational lady who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and had major surgery and after recovering from all of that, she was then told that it had failed and that she had only 6 months to live. Instead of giving up, she put her life and family in order, ensuring that they would be looked after in her absence and sorted all the practical aspects she could.  Out of the blue, Donna received the incredible news that there had been a mistake and that she was for now cured – she vowed to live life to the full.

Abbie Ross and James Dennis were the only couple on the trek and won everyone’s hearts in no time. They were just adorable together, always watching out for each other and showing a respect and mutual admiration to be envied in any relationship. At a colourful oriental temple perched on the side of the hill below Jinshanling, James got down on one knee and proposed to a tearful but ecstatic Abbie.

The school holidays seem to have bought an influx of teachers and nurses to this group and the pre- natal and maternity crowd from Bristol Hospital were excellent value on this trip.  Claire and Kirsty although challenged by the trek remained inseparable and their unique friendship gave them a strength as well as a much needed sense of humour in order to tackle the many hurdles. Kath, Paula, Hien and Sheena all completed the challenge even throwing in some energetic dance moves and high spirits at the top watchtower!

Emily, Michelle and Zahrah knew no-one else on the trek when they started but I feel certain that some lifelong friendships will have been made during the trip.  Emily was already well travelled and despite this being uncharacteristic of the rest of her family, she is driven by her motivation to raise money for Great Ormond Street Childrens Hospital and the bear came with us as support. The hospital has asked Emily to go up in person to have photo’s done when she donates the money.

Michelle never faltered. She was physically fit, determined and always positive bringing fun to every situation.  Her and Donna will remain strong friends after this trip, I suspect. I hope her dance students appreciate her dynamic personality.

Zahrah was such a strong character and we got to spend a great deal of time together.  Backed by her class with their notes and pictures to encourage her on, Zahrah refused to miss any part of the challenge even when she found it tough.  It seemed that the more I put her under pressure, the more she raised her game and we finished the trek below Badaling at a run.

Naomi, with her infectious laugh, was a naturally caring and giving member of the group who was often more than happy to chat at a slower pace with those at the back.  She has overcome her own health issues which no-one would ever have suspected.  Nothing Naomi did was ever about herself and she was invaluable to the team.  I understand that she and Joe will also be tying the knot before long and he is a lucky man.

I hope that this exceptional group will continue to inspire others as they have done me. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.

Penny

You can also find out more about our Great Wall Discovery by clicking here. If you have any questions on this challenge, please contact Jo, our Ops Manager on jo@charitychallenge.com. To see more information about the array of amazing challenges we have, please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

World Water Day

We’ve heard about a very good cause that we thought we would post up on here for you all to get involved with – World Water Day. Which just happens to be today!

World Water day has been celebrated on the 22nd March ever since 1993 and is organised by the United Nations. It is the one day of the year when all UN member nations and NGO’s from around the world get together to discuss issues concerning world water resources and countries can speak frankly on water issues that specifically affect their regions and discuss how these can be resolved. On the 22nd March the day is entirely devoted to this subject.

The day is used by Charities and the World Water Council to highlight many problems around water we have at the moment. For example did you know that a billion people at the moment are living without access to any safe drinking water? The day aims to highlight these terrible facts to us all.

So what can we do to help – well the UN suggests the following;

  1. Stop wasting food and drink; did you know that 30% of the food we produce is wasted? That’s 1.3 billion tonnes a year of food and packaging that could have been put to a better use.
  2. Get a healthier diet; Did you know that an unhealthy diet is also a source of waste? Swapping to healthier, less processed and less packaged food you will be limiting waste packaging and reducing impacts on water.
  3. Try to eat and drink sustainably; a sustainable diet with organic or locally produced food will usually have a smaller water foot print and tends to lead to a healthier diet anyway.
  4. Get involved with protecting our forests; forests reduce the affects of flooding, droughts, prevent soil erosion, landslides and desertification. So if you know of a tree replanting project nearby or of a campaign to save a local forest – get involved!
  5. Try to reuse and recycle water at home; pop left over drinking water back in the kettle for tea, collect rain water to water your indoor plants and make sure taps are always fully turned off – there are many things you can do to make sure you are using water effectively.
  6. Don’t forget; there is also plenty you can do whilst you are away on a challenge, making sure that you don’t have your towels changed each day, keeping showers to a minimum in countries where you know water supply is a real issue etc.

In short there is lot that we can do and lots that we can learn, I know we here at Charity Challenge are open for picking up a few hints and tips and are looking forward to celebrating World Water Day!

For more information about how to get involved please go to; http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/

To learn more about all our charity challenges, and how else we get involved with responsible tourism. Please visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com, and to keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the orange RSS button, you can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Responsible Tourism – Update from the Cycle Machu Picchu to the Amazon Team about their work on behalf of the Planet Organisation

A fantastic update from our Cycle Machu Picchu to the Amazon Ground handler in Peru! Amazonas Explorer are well known for their support of the 1% for the Planet Organisation, whose mission is to build and support an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet, particularly in the area’s that we cycle on our challenge.

On the 10th and 11th  of December, Paul and his staff planted 20,000 native trees in the communities of Pampacorral and Quishuarani with the help of about 50 of their staff, porters, guides and drivers and around 500 locals from the communities.

They bought the trees direct from their own nurseries and paid everyone for a day’s work and put on a fantastic communal meal at the end so the vast majority of the money invested in these tree planting events remains directly in the community.

The tree survival rate is over 95% so it’s a highly effective campaign to help reforest seriously depleted native forest and preserve the natural habitat and watershed of the Lares valley. They took the opportunity to all camp at Lares hotsprings and on the way back, Carol, Juan Carlos Salazar (who many of you will know as one of our fantastic local leaders) and Paul hiked up to 4600m and cycled the sweetest single track yet – 1800m of descent to Huaran in the Sacred Valley over 2 hours of sheer fun I’m told!

Paul also appeared on local Cusco TV a few nights later to promote the projects and they are working on, and a short video due out soon.

Congratulations to Paul and the team for all their hard work on such a worthy cause!

If you would like to challenge yourself to a tough cycle at altitude in 2012 or 2013 or have a go at a bit of single track then follow the link through to our dates for the Cycle Machu Picchu to the Amazon Challenge; http://www.charitychallenge.com/challenges.html?all=0&cid=64463. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, subscribe to this blog and please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

 

 

Responsible Tourism in Ecuador

Charity Challenge would be nothing at all if it wasn’t for the natural culture and beauty of our expedition destinations. So Responsible Tourism has always been a huge priority and a topic very close to our heart. It’s for this reason that it is part of our responsible tourism policy to donate around US$500 (on average), on behalf of each of our expedition groups, to a charity organisation based locally to the challenge destination. Indeed it’s part of our Responsible Tourism policy to give as much back to the local community as we can, through employment, spending locally, engaging with locally owned businesses, and educating those that are travelling with us and leave as small a footstep as possible wherever we go.

In this series of blogs we are going to be highlighting some of the work that we do around the world so that past, present and future participants can see where their money is going to. Our Peru Project Manager Emma is particularly excited to be highlighting this part of our work.

“In the excitement of everyone fundraising for their specific charity, the good work that you are also contributing towards in the local communities where you are travelling is often forgotten. So to all of our past, present and future challengers – please take a moment to pat yourself on the back for your achievements abroad!”

This week we are focusing on Ecuador. In recent years we have taken to helping the local communities north of Quito in the municipality of Otavalo. Otavalo town itself is very popular with tourists as a day trip due to its huge local market. The market is one of the biggest and friendliest in the country and tourists get up early and drive from Quito to come and learn about traditional Ecuadorian products and handicrafts and how to haggle for them!   

However, a few hours further north of the town of Otavalo, where handicrafts are not made and tourists don’t tend to travel so much, living conditions are much tougher. Each year we try and help one of the small indigenous communities, often by contributing to building projects. This year has been the turn of the San Francisco community, 4hrs drive from Quito close to the town if Ibarra. They asked us (through our local ground agents) to help them to construct a new wall around the communities’ small local school so that the children could play safely in their breaks. We assisted them with this, and also helped build a small block of hygienic toilets the children could use, and to round it off, we helped to support the refurbishment of the kitchen which makes the children’s lunch. This is just one of many projects that we are proud to be involved with. Stay tuned to this blog series (by clicking the orange RSS button) if you want to learn more about how we give back to local communities. If you’d like to receive up-to-date news on our latest challenges, promotions and developments, please enter your name and email address into the adjacent box.