Mark trekked through the Sahara to raise money to help those affected by eating disorders in November 2018. We asked him a few questions about his experience.
1. What made you sign up for the Sahara Trek in aid of Beat?
In August 2017, just a week after collecting her GCSE results, my 16-year-old cousin Libby lost her life when she suffered a heart attack at home during a long battle with bulimia. I had never experienced loss on a personal level other than due to old age, and I immediately vowed to try to do my bit to make things better. I had heard of Beat and thought of no better charity to raise funds for and so just a month later, I asked for donations for my birthday. That prompted Beat to get in touch with me and also to advertise other ways to raise money. When I saw the booklet about a variety of events (such as trekking) we could complete as long as a certain amount of cash was raised, I was determined to continue my charity work.
I had never done anything like this before in my life and knew that it would be so rewarding to push myself while helping others. Among the events we could choose from was this Sahara Trek. It was in a part of the world I had never been to (Morocco) and would be something I had never experienced before. I have had my fair share of 'wild' camping in various locations, but with miles of walking during the day too, I was excited to know that I could carry out this new adventure in memory of Libby and help others for whom it is not too late.
2. What was your experience of fundraising and what support did you receive from Beat?
When I initially saw the figure I needed to raise to be able to complete this trek, it was daunting. However, Beat (and Community Fundraising Officer Emily in particular) was extremely helpful and supportive, encouraging me to take it one step at a time. 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves' was the approach I needed to take, and I did just that. I put on one or two events that were extremely successful, but the rest came from a constant stream of donations over the last ten months or so.
3. What worked for you in terms of fundraising?
Promoting my event. I am a modest person and am not a fan of throwing what I am doing or about to do in someone's face, especially if the result expected is for them to give me money. But it turned out that a few social media posts and talking to work colleagues, friends and family helped raise my funds. I did find that my wording for when I asked for money helped needed to change. Instead of asking, "Please sponsor me", I would say, "Please donate to Beat and help those in need." As long as you give yourself time, don't be afraid if there is a quiet week, but also don't be afraid to show what amazing work you are doing.
4. Personal highlights of the trek?
The hardest of all these questions! Can I say EVERYTHING? If I have to choose, it would be a competition between the scenery of rolling sand dunes, the sunsets, the sky at night and the rest of the group who were trekking with me for other charities. Oh, and the food was incredible too. So, yes, EVERYTHING!
5. Was it all you expected?
I had no expectations because when the words 'I'm trekking over some of the Sahara desert' came out of my mouth, it never felt real and still didn't until I was stood at the edge of the sand waiting for the camels to be loaded with our bags. Lack of expectation helped as I felt it just made me get on with it and take everything in with every stride.
6. Advice to others considering it...
Do it! Also, I don't want to take away the advice that the third party organisers give you, like train in the shoes you will take with you, practise wrapping your feet up with strapping and Vaseline etc. before you go, and begin your training five months in advance, because I know everyone is different and everyone is at different stages in terms of stamina and fitness. I am fortunate enough to walk a lot in my job, so my feet were prepared already, but listen to your body and work out what is best for you well in advance then tailor your preparation around that.
7. Sum up your experience in three words...
Worth every minute.
You can help Mark reach his fundraising target here! And if you're feeling inspired, click here to find the perfect fundraising event for you!