Would you sign up for an epic journey to raise money for a good cause? We ask experts about the pros and cons of charity challenges — a growing phenomenon, which one company claims, has raised £47m for 1,700 charities in 16 years

Sam Lewis reports.

IVE BAKED CAKES, run a marathon and thrown a salsa party for charities close to my heart. But lately, I’ve noticed an increasing trend for philanthropic fundraisers to sign up to charity challenges that push participants beyond their personal boundaries, often in exotic far-flung destinations.

While one colleague is tackling altitude sickness in a bid to scale Mount Kilimanjaro, a friend is posting pictures of her horse ride across the plains of Mongolia, a distant relative is trekking the Great Wall of China and a virtual stranger is seeking sponsorship for her cycle across Vietnam.

Should I be doing this myself or simply donating, sponsoring their trip which, fundamentally raises money for a good cause, even if some of the funds pay for their flights and travel logistics? And if I begrudge them this money and put it towards signing up myself, will I end up regretting the commitment to training, endless fundraising and efforts to get along with my fellow participants?

The rewards are obvious, but this clearly isn’t something to commit to on a whim, with some challenges involving, for example, cycling over 40 miles a day and funds of up to £4,000. Yet, despite the cost and commitment, many participants sign up again and again. For some people, the experience is life-changing; for others, it has simply enabled them to raise funds and travel; and, for a handful, just one trip has turned them into self-confessed altruistic adventurers…

Do you have to be a certain age or ‘type’ of person to enjoy a charity challenge?
No, according to Peter Robinson, director of Global Adventure Challenges. Participants tend to be demographically diverse, often with little in common. “I’ve seen 17 to 70 year olds taking part in the same event. We’ve taken seasoned travellers and people who haven’t left their country before, as well as a cycling expedition with keen cyclists, plus others who haven’t ridden a bike for years,” he says.

Simon Albert, director of Charity Challenge agrees, emphasising that “participants used to be in their 30s, 40s and 50s, but now we’re seeing an increasing number in their late teens and 20s. It’s an amazing experience to see such a diverse group of strangers of all ages and from all walks of life arrive at the airport, who normally wouldn’t engage with each other. Everyone has their own personal reason for wanting to do a trip. For some it’s an anniversary; for others, divorce; or, someone close to them is sick. Yet they soon get to know each other and have this shared common goal.”

Nonetheless, I’m worried I won’t get on with everyone…
Ian Butler, 68, who has been on 16 trips with Charity Challenge, says, “I’ve met some of the nicest people I know on challenges. Participants are all like-minded, although with vastly different backgrounds and experience. I can think of only one — fortunately, short — trip where a couple of people didn’t fit in. Obviously, some people get on better than others, to the extent that on several occasions partnerships have formed during the trip. The age issue was never a problem. On the contrary, it has been wonderful to spend time in close, intimate contact with people of a different generation.”

I’m still nervous. Any tips? 
Global Adventure Challenges participant Christine Grieve, 60, is one of the growing number of challengers who has chosen to sign up with a partner, relative or friend. She also recommends picking an event with a larger group of around 40 travellers rather than the lower average of around 17. “More people means that you’re more likely to find someone with whom you have something in common. And, as you’re often split into slower and faster groups, it’s not like you’re trekking every day as one big group,” she says.

 

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