Walk for Wellbeing: Days 1 & 2

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So here it is. The long awaited blog from our first ever Walk for Wellbeing. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated and wished us well. As a result of your generosity, we have raised just short of £3000 for our projects in Uganda, a figure that we couldn’t have envisaged in our wildest dreams.

To give you the most accurate representation of what you actually sponsored us for, it was decided that Kate, Fin, Dan, Jenna and Joe would take responsibility for blogging about a day each. Below are the first two days, in all their glorious detail. Days 3,4 & 5 will be published at the start of next week, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Thanks again for your support, and we hope you enjoy the blog!

Day One: Fort William to Glencoe

By Kate Purchase

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After a handful of ‘practice walks’ (mainly consisting of canals, pies and beer), the six of us set off at the crack of dawn from Fort William armed with Pom Bears and pork pies in order to break the back of the 25 miles that lay ahead of us. Despite the rain we set off with eagerness and excitement, blissfully ignorant to what lay ahead of us. With the first suitable rest stop (a pub) being 15 miles away, we conquered paths that took us 900 feet high through wind, rain and mud finishing with a steep, slippery descent into Kinlochleven (stopping only for an obligatory Pom Bear break courtesy of Fin). Spirits were somewhat dwindling at this point as Fin proclaimed ‘We’ve bitten off more than we can chew here!’ However after a couple of pints we were ready to take on the last 10 miles of the day to Glencoe. Little did we know what lay ahead of us … another whopping 1850ft climb!

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As I’m sure the others will agree, this afternoon was by far the most physically and mentally challenging, especially after the long 15 miles we had already completed. After every corner turned we were faced with another hill climb to get the top of the mountain. As swarms of spritely Germans glided past us downhill and we pushed ourselves upwards, it became apparent we were the only sods heading in this direction. At this point I’d like to make a special shout out to Ross who came back down hill to find me struggling and motivated me by saying I was almost at the top (although this was factually incorrect I would still be probably be there now if it wasn’t for that!)

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We all made it to the top eventually and at this point we could see our accommodation which gave us a slight lift (Joe insisted that it was only a mile and a half away however this turned out to be four…) However this meant the start of our descent down the famous ‘Devil’s Staircase’. Luckily it was dry at this point as if it was still raining it would have made it even more dangerous underfoot. Once we past this last hurdle it was a relatively easy walk to reach the pub ‘near’ to our accommodation. However the balls of my feet were burning at this point and as Jen put it was like ‘walking on hot coals’. As we all arrived at the Kings House pub in dribs and drabs Ross, Jen, Joe, Dan and myself were feeling an immense sense of pride of what we has just accomplished. Fin however was on the verge of a meltdown and left shortly after eating to complete the extra mile to our Hobbit Houses at the base of Glencoe Mountain. Despite being clean and warm at first these were not ideal to sleep in after the day we had as the beds were too short and not wide enough to rest our aching bones. A quick story about the Glencoe Massacre from Ross however took our mind off the pain and we eventually got some shut eye!

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Day two: Glencoe Mountain to Tyndrum 

By Adam Finlay

Awaking on the second day of our quest through the Scottish Highlands, I attempted to digest the state of affairs I had found myself in whilst staring glumly around the cosy coffin we had resided in – marketed as a ‘Hobbit House’ (see below).

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Groggily contemplating the previous day, a day that will forever hold high rank in the ‘worst day of my life’ standings, I heard a muttering from somewhere down near my right foot where a stirring Joe muttered that this is probably how it feels to emerge from a coma. It was difficult not to agree with his assessment.

Hoping that the last twenty-four hours had all been a dream the blistered feet, swollen ankles, sore knees, aching back, strained shoulders, and painful chaffing in unimaginable places all confirmed that it had indeed been a reality… four days remained. Three synonyms of ‘reluctance’ are unwillingness, lack of enthusiasm, and dragging your feet. All three could not be more apt if they tried.

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Following the soon to be habitual routine of repacking my enormous rucksack, mummifying my damaged feet in bandages, and smothering areas – that for the sake of decorum – shall remain nameless in vast quantities of Vaseline I was grudgingly ready.

Setting off from the spectacular Glencoe Mountain in the early morning mist we watched as a helicopter ferried ski-lift parts from the bottom to the top of the still snow-capped peak, its downdraft blowing away the remaining cobwebs.

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Promptly finding our way back onto the West Highland Way trail we headed south across Rannoch Moor, one of Britain’s largest and wildest – consequently it was also extremely exposed to the elements as we soon discovered. The ten-mile slog across rock-strewn and tricky terrain towards Inveroran was briefly broken up at Ba Bridge where we all watched with hopeful anticipation as Ross clambered down the treacherous riverbank to fill his water bottle. Disappointingly for all concerned he failed to fall into the crystal clear waters below.

Inevitably I soon found myself facing another of the hills that I perpetually seemed to be walking up. However during our occasional rest stops at their summits I soon discovered the joys of lying down on rocks to rest my weary legs. It might have been my exhausted and delusional state but they felt as comfortable at that moment in time as to how I imagine the mattress in The Royal Suite at The Ritz feels.

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Trudging into the remote hamlet of Inveroran, feet throbbing from what felt like miles of fire walking, we found the local Inn. After a replenishing pint of ale, a hearty bowl of soup, and some photos of the local deer defecating we left raring to go… until being immediately faced by yet another mountain.

Descending into the picturesque Bridge of Orchy we found ourselves at another pub. As I sat and sipped my pint of cider outside of the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, staring longingly at the railway station across the road, I was quick to learn of one of the consequences of applying such a liberal amount of Vaseline to my commando’d crotch – I left a slug like trail in every place I sat down. I left hastily.

Trekking down an old disused military track we meandered through the valleys of the hills before reaching a railway bridge we had to pass under. Taking the ‘Hobbit House’ approach a little too literally the bridge mustn’t have been more than 5 feet off the ground. I have since learnt that this was actually a ‘sheep creep’ – a means by which livestock can pass from one field to another.

Unfortunately for my oversized rucksack and me once we reemerged from the dark cramped tunnel we very quickly discovered that sheep possess a strength I do not… they could negotiate the very steep and uneven cliff face staring back at me. The air turned blue momentarily but nonetheless we clambered over the rocks and up the abrupt slope before I was yet again reassured that it was all downhill from here.

Thankfully this time the last few miles were relatively flat and we had our sights set on Tyndrum, which was only briefly interrupted by two locals offering me painkillers that would “get me ta tha end nee bortha” – it was like a scene out of Trainspotting.

Finally dragging my shredded feet into Tyndrum, and slightly reinvigorated by my magical painkillers, we all reconvened at a pub (during which a fellow avid walker cheered me up no end by offering that it was much more difficult the way were doing it…), before finding the next hut where I would have to spend another uncomfortable and tender night drinking a warm can of Fosters.

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The evening’s entertainment consisted of an intervention where the contents of my bag were laid out of a picnic table and everyone got to pick something to throw away in an attempt to lighten my load. Seeing as I had been carrying half of Boots’ toiletry section this didn’t turn out to be too difficult. Hair gel down, I retired to bed.

So that was the end of day 2.

Thanks for reading, to be continued…

An evening at The Charity Awards 2015!

Sitting at my laptop last Tuesday morning, I was both perplexed and delighted when I received a surprise invitation to the prestigious Charity Awards in London, an evening hosted by Civil Society Media to celebrate some of the remarkable successes achieved by a vast array of wonderful charities and causes from the last 12 months. The evening was attended by a host of glittering celebrities (Larry Lamb being the most recognisable to me, or as I exclaimed when I saw him, Gav’s Dad from Gavin and Stacey!) and a number of luminaries from across the third sector.

I unashamedly had to borrow my Dad’s tux for the black tie event – a perfect fit, which is a particular cause for concern for my midsummer training regime, and I made my way to London on a Pendelino train that considered air conditioning a superfluous luxury to its sweltering custodians. I was a little nervous and slightly apprehensive on the journey down after taking a look at some of the attendees – The Celtic Foundation, Parkinsons UK, Lumos and The Disabilities Trust – just a few of the household names nominated for awards throughout the evening. I suppose the apprehension was born out of my insistence that I was mistakenly invited, and that on arrival I would be refused entry in my borrowed tux, and i’d be heading back home with my tail tucked firmly between my legs.

Fortunately, my apprehension was quickly replaced by a degree of self-assurdness, partly induced by a glass of bubbly that I enjoyed on my arrival, and I started talking to some really interesting people about all sorts of things, from football (naturally) to African politics. ‘Networking’ as people like to define it these days, can be quite unorthodox and can feel forced, but I thought of the event as more of an opportunity for me to appreciate what great things people have achieved in the third sector, and to find a degree of inspiration from people who live and breathe the cause for which they work.

As you can imagine, this wasn’t difficult; the ceremony was teeming with people who had achieved so much, and I found myself feeling a sense of excitement that usually manifests itself within me during the first week of the World Cup (for the non-football fans out there,  that ‘kid in a sweetshop’ metaphor is likely to hold more resonance). I was enthralled in the remarkable stories of achievement delivered by the self-deprecating and affable compere, Will Greenwood, and I found myself to be genuinely delighted for the well deserved recipients of the 10 different awards presented on the night.

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(Ex-England, Rugby World Cup Winner Will Greenwood was excellent as compere)

The winners of the overall award were Lumos, an incredible charity that have been working towards ending the plight of institutionalised children in Moldova. Thanks to their work, by the end of 2012 the number of institutionalised children in Moldova had reduced by 62%. The government has now drafted a new action plan for deinstitutionalisation for the period of up to 2020 – a remarkable achievement for all those involved.

The point i’m trying to convey is quite a simple one. In current times, there seems to exists a pervasive negative discourse that is relentlessly conveyed by parts of the national media, and it’s easy for us, as a populace, to get caught up in the bad news that we’re fed on a daily basis. But my night in London last week was refreshing, it reminded me that there are thousands of inspirational charities doing their own bit to improve the lives of someone, somewhere, in someway. Whilst we’re at the very start of our journey at The Zuri Project, it’s great to take inspiration from charities that have achieved so much, and we can aspire to emulate some of their remarkable achievements.

Ross @rossoross

Walk for (five ways to) Wellbeing!

By sheer coincidence, our first two fundraising events of 2015 are both endurance events, and they’re both in Scotland. At the end of May, Martin and Chris ran the Edinburgh marathon in ridiculously quick times, 3.24 and 3.40 respectively. I joked with Martin that I couldn’t watch a marathon in that space of time, and those that know me will appreciate that it’s not so far from the truth. The very thought of running 26 miles makes me shudder.

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(Martin & Chris after completing the Edinburgh Marathon)

Having said that, i’ve decided along with my good friends Dan, Fin, Jenna, Joe and Kate to walk the length of the West Highland Way in just five days in July. That’s 96miles for those of you that are interested. If you would like to sponsor us in our attempt to battle the infamous Scottish summer weather, whilst trying to protect ourselves from the swarms of hungry midsummer midges, then you can visit our fundraising page here:

http://www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/walk-for-wellbeing/354401

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(The 96mile route that takes us across ‘Yon bonnie banks of Loch Lomond’)

We hope that this ‘Walk for Wellbeing’ in Scotland will be the first of many that we can arrange over the next few years, in order to be one of the many ways that we raise funds for the work that we support in Uganda. Fundamentally, the idea for the ‘Walk for Wellbeing’ came from our research into how we could measure our impact as an organisation. We’ve decided that we want to support projects in Uganda that support people across the five ways to wellbeing, and this philosophy is true of our work in the UK as well. According to the New Economics Foundation, the five ways to wellbeing are:

Connect

Be active

Give 

Take Notice 

Keep Learning 

We believe that something as simple as organising and participating in a charitable walk can encompass all five of these ways to wellbeing and these are very simple things that you can incorporate into your every day life to improve your own wellbeing. As a test, I will write a blog after our walk in July, discussing, amongst other things, how the walk made me feel in relation to my own wellbeing.

You can find out more about the five ways to wellbeing here: http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/entry/five-ways-to-well-being

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(Practice makes perfect; our very first practice walk!)

We’d be absolutely delighted to hear from you if you’re interested in either participating in a future walk, or whether you are interested in arranging a walk for you and your friends or work colleagues. It certainly doesn’t have to be 96miles, and it doesn’t have to be in Scotland! We have a dedicated team of volunteers who can offer you support to organise your event, and we will provide you with a fundraising kit and t-shirt for each participant. If you would like to talk to us about a walk, then drop us an email to info@zuriprojectuganda.org or send us a message on Facebook and we will get back to you.

We’re all very excited about our challenge, and some of the guys will be blogging about their experience! If you’re interested in how we get on, we’ll be posting daily photos to our Twitter & Facebook feeds, as well as the odd rambling from the team. Wish us luck!

Ross. @rossoross

 

 

 

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to blog number 1! We hope this will become a great platform for anyone and everyone to share in our successes, to learn from our challenges, and to offer ideas and suggestions about our work in the UK and Uganda. Central to our organisational philosophy is collaborative working and co-production, and we value advice and input from anybody who is willing to talk to us, in order to work together to achieve positive outcomes through our work in Uganda.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about what we do – we’ve covered that on our website –  http://www.zuriprojectuganda.org (for those of you who have’t seen it).

We are aiming to write blogs that will contain updates about our fundraising progress in the UK, as well as exciting project updates from our team in Uganda, with the odd  philosophical rambling about theoretical development and where we (think) we exist within that sphere! We will also ask volunteers, fundraisers, partners and pretty much any one else who has anything interesting to say about Uganda/charities/funding/impact/football/development to tell us their story (preferably in less than 500 words and with some glorious pictures), and we would be delighted to share it on this blog.

We will also upload photos and videos from our projects in Uganda, so you are able to see what your time, money and efforts are contributing towards. We will be posting monthly blogs and sharing them on social media, so whether you’re a budding young author or a seasoned pro, it’s a great opportunity to get your thoughts and opinions out there for people to engage with and learn from, or occasionally criticise!

That’s enough for now, if you have something to say, then drop us a line 🙂  (info@zuriprojectuganda.org).

Oh, and follow us on Twitter @Zuri Project and like our FB page to get regular updates about our daily trials and tribulations.

Ross – @rossoross