Monday, 17 March 2014

Charity Challenges To Inspire

Challenge Yourself to Make a Difference

People tell me I have a pretty amazing job. I am in charge of all of the Latin American and European fundraising challenge events for Charity Challenge in the UK, which means that not only do I get to talk travel every day, but I occasionally get the opportunity to take part in our challenges. This can see me hiking up mountains in Romania one year and trekking to Machu Picchu the next. So (minor gloat over!), it might surprise people when I say that the great thing about getting out of the office and onto one of our Charity Challenges is not 'being overseas', but meeting the inspirational fundraisers who we have been in contact with, for up to 18 months in some cases, throughout their fundraising journeys. 

Whether it’s the mother with terminal breast cancer taking on the humidity of the Sumatran Jungle, or the son who is climbing Kilimanjaro after losing his father to heart disease; the octogenarian (!) who has undertaken a decade of physical challenges, or the 40 year-old who wants to mark a milestone by getting fit, losing weight and raising money for a charity close to their heart. These ordinary people, who have the drive to challenge themselves and do something great, help me to put my life into perspective!

Most challengers sign up to a challenge alone – so this means that they might be huddled in a tent on Kilimanjaro, preparing for the hardest summit climb of their lives with a person who they have met only a week earlier, or sharing a Bedouin tent in the Sahara desert with 8 other strangers! These little things can be forgotten about when they are trying to fundraise for their challenge. Donors may quantify the physical challenge in terms of how far they are walking/cycling/running each day, but the one thing that stands out to me is that even a year of training can't prepare you for arriving at the airport to a group of 20 strange faces and trying to make an impression, or realising that your toilet is a dug-out pit and you have nothing but a wet wipe to wash your face in the morning!
No matter what their background, our participants are all united by their adventurous spirits, and the incredible fundraising and training journey that has led them to the challenge itself. A lot of the time the journey has been so long that the physical challenge can be incredibly cathartic, and we hear stories about people who have felt that it marked the end of a personal struggle, and the beginning of something new.

Whatever the reason for taking on a challenge, it seems to create lifelong bonds and a hunger for more, as we see people come back to push themselves harder, striving for new challenges and activities, with the same people that they met at the top of that mountain years ago. I was quite new to the world of fundraising challenge events when I started working at Charity Challenge, but seeing first-hand their effect on the charity sector within the UK and Ireland, not to mention the inspiring comments we hear daily from returning challengers, is enough to convert the biggest cynic. And with the range of activities extending from trekking and cycling to abseiling, skydives, horse treks and polar challenges, the reach and appeal has never been bigger. So make 2014 the year that you challenge yourself to make a difference!

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