As gulf for good’s 2018 programme is unveiled, its governer lets us in on the charity selection process and explains why she’s hungry to take on her eleventh challenge…
How did you first become involved with Gulf For Good?
I’ve always loved adventure, and we used to take our three sons, who are grown up now, on interesting trips such as trekking or white water rafting in Nepal or Sri Lanka. Later, I discovered Gulf For Good at a fundraiser for some friends who were climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and they explained how the money they were raising was to support street kids in an area close to the mountain. I loved the idea of being part of a charity challenge and more or less signed up there and then.
You’ve completed ten challenges so far. Which has been your favourite and why?
It’s honestly impossible to pick a favourite, but the important point to note is that while the places I have been have been amazing – trekking to Everest base camp, cycling and horseback riding in Mongolia – it’s the people who I’ve been with that have really made them special. The overriding effect of participating in a challenge is that you not only meet like-minded people, those who love adventure and have a social heartbeat, but it has the magical effect of changing how you view yourself. I’ve seen, time and again, how empowering these challenges are. If you can climb that mountain, cycle 100km a day in blistering heat or cope with altitude and perhaps a dodgy tummy, then what else are you capable of doing? It gives me enormous pleasure to see our challengers, and women in particular, who are perhaps lacking in confidence, literally grow in stature as they enjoy their success. And of course, visiting the charity at the end of all our challenges is the real clincher. That is what grounds us, what humbles us, and where our tagline, “Challenge yourself, help others” really rings true.
What are the key criteria you look for in the charities you work with in location countries?
We work with charity partners where we can build sustainable, ongoing relationships. As an example, we have spent many years partnering with Mission Himalaya, an eco-farm and children’s home in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal, and have been able to provide guidance throughout the building of the home and development of the surrounding land. Our recent trek to Annapurna base camp raised enough money to fund chicken coops and chickens for the kids, both to eat and to provide an income for the home, and we’re installing a new set of solar panels to provide extra hot water too. For new charities, we have strict protocols, and they must provide evidence of their registration as a charity, their financial accounts and so on to be given an opportunity to apply. We also only accept applications for capital projects, which can be anything from a new toilet block or classrooms to much-needed hospital wards.
Charity rules have changed recently in the UAE. Has that had an impact on how you operate and what does it mean for challenge participants?
We are members of International Humanitarian City and, as such, are fully registered to operate legally as a not-for-profit organisation here in the UAE. The change in the charity rules has meant that we have to ensure all our challenges have IHC approval, which is a long and detailed process, but is great news for anyone considering signing up as it means they are fully covered to fundraise and promote their efforts among their friends, family and colleagues. At the end of the day, the rules are there to protect everyone, so while the process has been arduous, the infrastructure is necessary.
You’ve just unveiled your programme for 2018. Which of next year’s challenges is most exciting to you and why?
Well, I’m in love with the mountains, so for me the incredible Gokyo Lakes challenge, in the Everest region of Nepal, is my top choice.
What advice would you give those contemplating a challenge?
Sign up for our newsletter, visit us at one of our monthly socials, try out our free weekend training sessions and meet some of the wonderful people in our community. Then, prepare to be taken out of your comfort zone, meet new friends, and create new memories that will remain with you forever.