Charity trekking

Trekking for charity sounds like a good idea, but how many of us sign up to the challenge? Meet the Gulf For Good team

Area Guides

‘If you think you can’t do it, come along to the social and you’ll know you can,’ says Carla Duarte, an internal communications manager at Dubai Healthcare City. Duarte has taken part in three Gulf For Good challenges, and is planning to tackle another this year. Inspiring, but formidably so, considering each challenge is a physically demanding trek through some of the world’s most breathtaking – and tough – terrain.

Beyond the personal satisfaction of Duarte’s achievements (it must be difficult not to start every conversation with, ‘This one time, when I was climbing Everest…’) Duarte can also feel the warm glow that comes with making a difference in the world. Money raised by challengers is donated to charities based in the region they are trekking. But the prospect of becoming a Gulf For Good challenger yourself can be daunting.

Firstly, there’s the Dhs1,850 registration fee, and then you must raise a certain amount depending on the challenge, ranging between Dhs12,000 and Dhs24,000. And what about the challenge itself? If you even can’t motivate yourself to mosey to the beach of a weekend (because it just seems so far from your apartment), how will you cope with climbing the world’s highest mountain or cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia like Duarte?

This is where the Gulf For Good social can help. An informal gathering of past challengers, Gulf For Good governors and curious – if dubious – potential trekkers, it aims to show you it’s really not so hard to take part in a challenge, and offers stacks of information and tips on how to set about getting involved. It takes place on Wednesday February 18 and, along with finger food and drinks, you can watch a DVD showing highlights from the last few years’ trips – sure to inspire you to consider taking on a challenge.

Yousef Tuqan Tuqan, CEO at Flip Media in Dubai Media City, has completed three challenges, and hopes to do the Inca Trail trek in Peru this summer. He has a story for anyone worried about the physical side of trekking. ‘When I climbed Kilimanjaro last year, there was a woman aged 62 on the trip with me and she made it to the summit,’ he tells Time Out. ‘She took care of herself and she wasn’t a smoker, but she was a grandmother. So if a 62-year-old woman can do it, there’s no reason other people can’t. There’s a reasonable amount of fitness required but you don’t have to be a marathon runner.’

The money issue might not be so easily brushed off, especially in these credit crunched times. Luckily, Gulf For Good’s Patricia Anderson has some ideas. ‘We have a 12-page fundraising advice booklet,’ she says. ‘Raising money is the thing people are most worried about, but they always find it comes together.’

She recommends gathering plenty of corporate sponsorship – easy when you can promise a picture of yourself surrounded by amazing scenery and holding a banner bearing the company’s name, making for great marketing. Anderson adds past challengers are more than happy to give advice to new challengers, and that the social is a great place to bounce some ideas around.

Duarte has dreamed up some fun ways to fundraise in the past, including selling tickets for and hosting an Arabian desert dinner. Charity dinners are a popular and relatively easy way to make cash fast – hotels are often happy to donate the space and food, and you can even turn them into theme nights to tie in with the charity you are raising money for.

Ultimately, raising money for deserving causes is what it is all about. And because those causes are based in the region you visit, more often than not trekkers can meet the people they are helping and see how the money is being used. ‘I can’t just give money away and not know where it’s gone,’ Duarte says. ‘With Gulf For Good, you have the opportunity to see what you’ve supported. For me, that’s a big thing.’

However, Tuqan says it’s OK to think of the personal benefits too. ‘It makes you a more interesting person,’ he says. ‘Something I keep remarking on during these trips is, “Wow, we’re hanging out with people from Dubai and we’re not talking about rent and traffic.”’

Both Tuqan and Duarte say meeting like-minded people and making friends is a big bonus to being a Gulf For Good challenger. From pre-challenge training sessions to the trip itself, everyone is in it together. ‘The team spirit and camaraderie is like nothing I’ve ever experienced,’ confirms Duarte. ‘I would say just go for it. And then train, train, train!’

The social is on Wednesday February 18 from 8pm onwards. Confirm your attendance by calling 04 368 0222 for location. Upcoming challenges include cycling from Vietnam to Cambodia and trekking in the Himalayas. Special thanks to Darrin James www.djphotography.net

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