From 11th-23rd March 2016 myself and 37 keen trekkers all from the UK hospitality industry visited one of the most isolated regions of Peru to partake in the Springboard UK charity trek and community project. The Ritz London sent two members of staff, Ben Heke from the security team and myself from the marketing team. Ben and I spent the previous four months fundraising with the target of £3,200 each to go towards the work Springboard does in the UK. My fundraising activities included baking, knitting, auctions, cycle rides, coffee mornings and even a pub quiz.
ARRIVAL IN PERU
After a long and tiring twenty six hour journey, we arrived at Cusco city, nestled between the Andes Mountains and at an altitude of 3,400m it was once the capital of the Inca Empire. When we arrived at the hotel we organised and divided the clothes and toy donations for the three schools we were going to visit and got ready for the acclimatization trek the following day. That evening loads of people suffered with headaches, swollen limbs, tingling hands and lips due to the high altitude; it truly was amazing how the human body tries to adapt to a new environment. Throughout the first taster trek as the air was thinner and there was less oxygen, any slight climb would feel exhausting so it was a real challenge for everyone!
THE TREK AND CAMPING
The five day Chanca Chuco trek in the remotest parts of the Andes was very challenging with steep climbs, injuries, vertigo sufferers, altitude sickness, blisters and the extremities of the micro climate weather. The group pulled together and it was a team effort to motivate everyone and get through the experience together. The scenery was absolutely stunning and the photographs do not do the mountains justice. We walked off the beaten track to where tourists do not usually go and even the local guides had not walked some of the paths before. Along the way the tour guides showed so much passion and enthusiasm about their country, people and the spirituality of the Peruvian culture and Pachamama (mother earth). We walked up to 13 hours a day across various terrain and only met a handful of people along the way. When we bumped into a couple of school children our guides told us they had to walk two hours in the mountains to get to school every day. When we arrived at camp, we would sit and enjoy a delicious meal prepared by our Chefs. Then it would be time to settle in our tents and wrap up as we would have an early wake up call, usually at 5.30am when it was still dark. On our second night of camping we were at such altitudes we had glaciers as neighbours and woke up with ice all over our tents.
After we had successfully completed the trek climbing up to at the highest peak at 4,500m, I was looking forward to having a bed and a much needed shower back in the hotel.
We were based at the mountain community of T’astayoc for two days to work on the various projects. The main aim was to bring electricity to this community by installing three solar panels to the roof. As the community was deep in the Andean mountains it goes pitch black around 6.30pm when the sun goes down and they had very limited electricity in the isolated area. We also brought 28 laptops which were uploaded with educational learning material and were divided amongst the three schools we visited. The overgrown greenhouse was weeded and fertilized to allow new crops to be planted. Lastly, the dining area was renovated with fresh paint, new tablecloths and a designated space was created for the new computers. To mark the work we had done for this community and to leave a memory, we created a plaque and everyone signed it. The community was extremely grateful for the work we had done and they shared with us their local potatoes and soup for lunch.
Educational materials including notebooks, pencils, colouring pens and gifts were brought for the schoolchildren and they were very happy to see us. Our group played games with the children, taught them English and organised a fun sports day with traditional English race games and everyone received a medal and goody bag for competing.
The President of the community had walked to above 5,000m altitude to pick a selection of flowers to make bouquets for the group. We were touched to receive the flowers and to see the transformation of the community.
The trip to Peru was an amazing experience and one I will never forget! It was a privilege to donate essential learning equipment and install solar panels to the school in the Testayoc community. It was touching to see how thankful the community were for items we simply take for granted every day.
HOW MUCH WAS RAISED?
To date the group has raised over £125,000 to fund the work of The Springboard Charity which will help at least 80 more young people, unemployed adults and those facing barriers to work into sustainable employment in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry, as well as the difference already made in Peru.
Marketing Assistant-The Ritz London