In 2009, Cheryl Cole, Ronan Keating and a host of other celebrities participated in The Big Red Nose Climb, leaving behind their lives of luxury to battle their way to the top of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of charity.
Fundraising challenges like this are not reserved for the rich and famous; more and more people are choosing to embark on fundraising challenges outside the UK in the hope of raising as much money as possible for their chosen charity. Whilst embarking on a hike thousands of feet up a mountain or canoeing along the world’s longest river is by no means a holiday, the trip can be the experience of a lifetime for a participant as well as a fantastic opportunity to support a worthwhile cause.
Duncan Charles, who works for north east of Scotland cancer support charity CLAN, undertook a six-day cycle across Mexico in November last year to raise over £4,000 for the charity’s ongoing 1-2-3 campaign to build a new support centre. Duncan and fellow participant Jon Matthews notched up 489km in temperatures reaching 38C, wearing out pedals, gears and chains in the process.
Duncan said: “Jon and I signed up to the Mexico cycle after reading about it in a brochure. It was the first time that either of us had participated in anything like this and it was a fantastic experience. In addition to dramatically improving my fitness, the challenge gave me the opportunity to see a side to Mexico that many people wouldn’t experience on the usual tourist trails.
“We also had a great opportunity to meet lots of other people who were raising money for various charities. This helped to open up our minds to all the other good causes that are out there in addition to CLAN and made us realise how many people there are willing to push themselves to their physical limits for the sake of helping those in need.”
Choices are plentiful when deciding on which fundraising challenge abroad to participate in; the internet is brimming with professional companies that specialise in charity challenges all over the world – a trek along The Great Wall of China, a Thai jungle expedition and kayaking on the Amazon River to name a few. While larger national charities often organise a trip specifically for their fundraisers, there are also open challenges which allow people to raise funds for any chosen charity.
There are two methods of funding available to participants. They can either pay for the trip themselves, with any money raised through fundraising going directly to the charity, or there is the option of paying the deposit and agreeing to raise a set amount of money for the charity. The latter method means that the charity pays for the trip but also factors in a minimum amount of sponsorship required from participants who choose this option.
The excitement of traveling overseas can sometimes detract from the most important thing – taking part in one of these challenges does require a lot of commitment, to both fundraising and training.
Duncan added: “Unfortunately, some people misunderstand the concept of fundraising abroad and mistakenly believe that it is a kind of holiday which, in my experience, is definitely not the case. We started our training about six months before our challenge, but depending on the person and the challenge, preparations can begin up to 12 months in advance. The challenge itself was tough – cycling an average of 50 miles each day in sweltering temperatures is physically and mentally exhausting.
“However, that is not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable experience. The feeling of completing a personal challenge, experiencing a new culture and subsequently doing something good to help others gave me an enormous feeling of satisfaction. This sense of achieving something worthwhile is the reason that people continue to participate in these challenges again and again.”
CLAN is an independent charity which offers support to anyone affected by cancer. Based in Aberdeen, the charity covers the whole of Grampian, Orkney and Shetland.
For more information about CLAN please call (01224) 647 000 or visit www.clanhouse.org