I have always had a passion for travel, since my first trip to Thailand at 19 years old, I was addicted. It was only last year that I realised there is so much more to travelling than I first realised and my whole perspective changed. In the summer of 2019, I went on a 4-week medical volunteer project to Malawi. It was during this trip that I developed a deeper love and understanding of the world we live in. I got to see Malawi for the country it really was, living with the locals, speaking the local language and immersing myself into the culture. After a month with no hot water, coming back home to the ‘luxuries’ made helped me realise how many people are living different lives out there. Interestingly though, I’ve never met anyone happier than the people in Malawi; they have limited life essentials, yet they appreciated everything. It was probably where I was the happiest too.
It was in Malawi that I met an organisation called Impact Marathon Series (IMS). IMS aims to bring runners together around the world to uplift communities. At first, I didn’t get it, was I just supposed to help set up a race to raise money? It was only after a few days of being involved could I see the positive change it had on the local community. Once I returned to the UK, I landed a role within IMS and the next thing I knew I was off to Nepal. It is so powerful to see what a group of people can contribute to this world when people work together, organising a race is just one part of it. These races are held in unique locations and welcome runners from all around the world, who are eager to volunteer and tackle these projects days before the race. They work in the community building roads, installing water systems, greening desserts, I could go on.
The money raised all goes back into local charities. Most recently in Nepal, two charities we worked with were Burns Violence Survivors and Childreach Nepal. Giving and contributing to charities in general is important, but visiting them and really understanding where your contributions are going is such a powerful feeling. These experiences also enable me to learn a lot about the country. Meeting Burns Violence Survivors, I had no idea that acid attacks were so predominant in Nepal and mostly against women. Whilst Childreach Nepal held a workshop, indicating the dangers of child trafficking and the importance of children being ‘Taught, Not Trafficked’.
Working in these countries, such as Nepal and Malawi and empowering the local communities is extremely important. It’s so valuable for local young women and girls to see other women supporting each other. It shows that everyone has a voice and everyone can make change. There is no better feeling than seeing a community come together, seeing the young children coming a long to a project to help and then running alongside the runners on race day, everyone is able to get involved.
Some of my friends and family think I am crazy for going to the countries I visit and doing the things I do whilst there. Sometimes I also do, but the feeling of flying out and contributing to these communities always leaves me coming back for more. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing I do; long working hours, lack of resources and often just the pressure you put on yourself to deliver, but it just takes that feeling of accomplishment and then we go off to the next one.
This time, whilst in Nepal I decided to take some time for myself after the project week and hiked up to Everest base camp. Take On Nepal, the company that helped me get to base camp, is one of the few companies in Nepal that have female guides and porters. For me, seeing these young girls and spending nearly two weeks with them, doing probably the hardest challenge I have ever done, was amazing. Take On Nepal not only empowers many young women but improves the education of children in remote Nepalese villages. Not only did I get to reach my goal, I was also able to spend my time with an organisation working to better their own community and make a change to so many young lives.