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Teacher Blog: The Virgin Strive Challenge

24 October 2018

Surval English Teacher, Mrs Emily Geldard, spent a week at the end of September in the mountains supporting the Branson family and their friends as a guide for the Virgin Strive Challenge across the French Alps. The challenge began on Mount Etna and finished at the top of Mont Blanc, using boats, bikes and hikes. 

Having been invited back to help with part of the 2018 Virgin Strive Challenge, this September I guided fundraisers hiking 100km from Tignes to Chamonix in the French Alps. As well as uniting people to share ideas about giving young people a better chance to succeed in life, the Strive Challenge raises a lot of money for the charity Big Change.

The challenge for 2018 involved the 'Strivers' using their own human-power to get from Mount Etna in Sicily to the top of Mont Blanc in France. They did so by kayaking, cycling, hiking and climbing this distance, and raised funds by gaining sponsorship to complete the challenge.

Big Change is a network of organisations, entrepreneurs and individuals set up by Sam and Holly Branson and friends. They fund projects to identify and provide what's missing in society to help young people thrive - whether it is communication skills, leadership or mental health support.

I led the Branson family and their friends 20-25km each day through the mountains. We encountered a range of weather and challenging terrain including rocky passes just under 3000m high and difficult snow crossings. Different people found different sections tough - it was essential that the group worked as a team to ensure everyone got through to the end. Other challenges we faced on the trek included one dislocated shoulder (Dave fell over, but, incredibly, another Striver was able to put it back into place!), some sunburn and several blisters! One participant, Daniel Luke, works in a Virgin call-centre and won his place on the challenge after entering a competition at work. He has Multiple Sclerosis, which made the trek particularly hard for him, but he still managed to complete the route like everyone else.

By the end of the challenge, the 2018 Strive Challenge had raised over £1 million for Big Change - and there is still some fundraising coming in.