Reflections: WWTW 100 KM Sahara Trek- Written by Chris Carlisle
Earlier this month, I embarked on a once in a lifetime trip, walking 100 KM across the Sahara Desert in aid of Walking With The Wounded.
I signed up to the challenge in order to raise awareness of the work that the charity carries out, the cohort that they support and to raise funds to help them continue their vital work.
I myself am a veteran. When I left the Armed Forces, I struggled with my mental health and luckily came across Walking With The Wounded. They secured a place for me on their mental health programme. I now work for the charity as an Employment Advisor, working directly with those who have served and supporting them as they transition from a life in the military. Although my primary focus is employment, I help my clients in a number of ways including addressing multiple social barriers that might be preventing them from securing long-term employment opportunities, like mental health issues.
The Sahara Trek presented an opportunity for me to walk with a group of people who were all raising funds for Walking With The Wounded and tell them first-hand the impact that their fundraising will have on the veteran community. There were some people in the group who had supported the charity in the past and taken part in our events like The Cumbrian Challenge, however, the majority did not know too much about our other services like our Employment and Mental Health programmes. Throughout the walk, I gave them the opportunity to ask questions about who we are and what we do.
On a personal level, I got involved in the challenge for my own reasons too. I enjoy a gentle walk, but I felt the need to break out of my comfort zone and attempt something that I have never done before. On a day-to-day basis, I totally immerse myself in my work and my home-life and I challenge myself to achieve targets and aims, but the Sahara walk was a different test. I saw it as an opportunity to push myself and prove that I am capable of achieving whatever I put my mind to.
The challenge brought an incredibly array of people together. The group ranged from 16-60 years old and had a mixture of people who are currently serving in the Armed Forces, to those who have family members serving and those who have no connection to the Armed Forces at all. However, everyone had one common goal- to raise funds for the charity. Although we completed the distance, the task was not easy. We did struggle with different things, like physical ailments and becoming home sick. I had a tough night when I had been anxious about the walk and was physically and mentally exhausted; a team member came over and checked up on me. Just those words of encouragement made such a difference. We all worked together as a team to make sure we all got to the finish line. This trip has taught me that you need to believe in yourself and never doubt your abilities.
One of the highlights was waking up early every morning, climbing up the high sand dunes and watching the sunrise. The scene was utterly beautiful.
Click here to donate to Walking With The Wounded.