Wednesday, 24 March 2010

We Survived the Arctic!

Despite the temperature reaching a very chilly minus 34 degrees, we’ve both returned safely from our Arctic Challenge week with all fingers and toes thankfully still intact. And what a week it for myself and Ruth in Northern Sweden!

Admittedly when we arrived at the cabin to temperatures of minus 30 and experienced the weird sensation of our nostril hairs freezing, we wondered what we had let ourselves in for! But with Penny being a reassuring presence, a team of three excellent training members, and our fellow eleven friendly Arctic Challengers, we soon settled down to the week ahead.

The first three days were designed to allow us to acclimatise to the amazing environment. This involved cross country skiing around the frozen lake and even trying our hands at the equivalent of water skiing but on snow, whereby we were pulled along by holding a rope tied to the back of a snowmobile. It provided a very good spectacle for the onlookers as both Ruth and myself fell down at very regular intervals! We also got the chance to be taken around the lake by a team of husky dogs and one of my favourite moments, spending a day up in the mountains on a snowmobile. It was brilliant fun to share almost 30 miles on one with Ruth, singing at the tops of our voices as the snow came down all around us!

However, it was not all relaxation because we still had the main part of the trip to complete-the survival phase! It was truly back to basics, for each day we had to light the fire, create the toilet facilities, eat only rations, get blinded by the fire smoke, and of course, construct a shelter for each night. They were a canvas tent, a fir tree shelter and finally the snow hole. It was in the snow hole that we had the hardest night. Not only was it tiring having to do a candle watch for an hour during the night, but also the dampness within the hole made it feel very cold. However, at 6am we were told to go back to the cabin to warm up for we had successfully completed the survival phase!

Looking back on the week, we have so many memories, of both the fun and hard times. We both said before the trip that if things got tough, we would just try to laugh and keep upbeat. Luckily everyone in the group got on so well that there was plenty of laughter and more importantly, plenty of support for each other. We feel lucky to have been given the opportunity by Penny and Age Concern Exeter to have had such an amazing experience. It definitely made all the various fundraising over the last year worth it and we are looking forward to handing over the total money we raised in the near future.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Arctic Challenge 2010

Are you tired of the Big Freeze gripping the nation? Do you look forward to the days when the temperature stays above freezing? For us, this spell of weather is mild compared to what awaits us between 5th and 12th March of this year!

Adventurous, brave or just plain stupid, our names are Pippa Field and Ruth Hopkins and we have chosen to undertake an Arctic survival week in Sweden to raise money for Age Concern Exeter. We are both second year students at the University of Exeter and came across Age Concern Exeter at a university volunteering fair last year. One of us is involved in the home visiting scheme, visiting a lady in Heavitree once a week to talk about everything and anything! The visits are very lively, sometimes even divulging into French for an hour or two!

After hearing Penny’s stories upon her return from last year’s Arctic survival week, we thought a similar trip this year would provide a unique experience and certainly something different from lectures and essays. The week involves learning how to survive in a harsh environment with sub-zero temperatures as low as minus 30. Without doubt, the week is going to test us to our limits. This recent cold weather has really highlighted how cold it is going to get and the dangers of the trip.
As unforgettable as the trip will be, the reason for which we have chosen to undertake it is very important; to be able to donate a large sum of money towards the Social Support projects of which voluntary visiting is a large part. From being a part of Age Concern Exeter for the last eighteen months, we have seen how important the work is for the community. From our perspective, volunteering for Age Concern in Exeter has provided us with way of emerging out of what can quickly become a student bubble, to see the work that takes place within the older sections of the community. For this reason, we are very happy to raise money and support such a worthy charity.

Fundraising events that we have organised so far include various bag packs, running the Great West Run, a classical music concert, quiz night and a guess the number of sweets in a jar competition. We are not finished yet though and have a series of further events planned between now and the trip to help us reach our all important targets.
Hopefully we’ll get an account of how they got on very soon. Well done girls!