On the 9 March, 26 volunteers from the hospitality industry began a once in a lifetime challenge and community trek to Nepal. An annual event, run by The Springboard Charity, and now in its 6th year – the participants experienced an off the beaten track adventure which included five days trekking in the spectacular Mahalangur mountains and three days working with a local community school, to help rectify some of the damage caused by the destructive earthquake the region experienced in 2015.
A series of blogs recognising and celebrating people in our business who actively support local and international community and charity projects.
Springboard is a charity that helps young people achieve their potential and nurtures unemployed people of any age into work. It helps alleviate poverty by supporting disadvantaged and underprivileged people into sustainable employment within hospitality, leisure and tourism.
Springboard are aiming to raise a total of £135,000 from participants of the Trek to help the communities in Nepal, and continue their great work for the UK catering and hospitality industry.
This year Tina Pankova, Assistant Buyer from Bunzl Catering Supplies and Steven Walker, Design and Marketing Co-ordinator for Bunzl Speciality Businesses took on the challenge.
An interview with Tina Pankova – Assistant Buyer, Bunzl Catering Supplies
Why did you volunteer to make this trek?
I saw this trip as an exciting opportunity to support one of our industry’s leading charities, joining a team of like-minded people who want to make positive differences to people’s lives.
What part of the trek did you most look forward to?
Seeing the mountains and Mount Everest…my mum is an experienced trekker and when I was younger my mother would often share books about Mount Everest, it’s thrilling to think that I will see these mountains on the trek!
What preparation did you do for the trek?
I have been regularly practicing my hiking skills with a group trek across the uneven terrain of the Brecon Beacons.
What did you think would be the most challenging part of the trek?
I have some experience in mountain hiking and wild camping – but I think this trek will definitely push my limits. I think that it will be difficult not just physically but also mentally, so I want to stay strong and not let the hard conditions affect my positive attitude.
What fundraising activities did you organise to raise money?
We organised a charity raffle at the annual divisional conference. With more than 400 people attending it was a great success and we managed to raise significant funds.
In addition I organised a mini hand-made fair and auctioned off some of my artworks at the Springboard Gala Dinner. We also got some fantastic donations from our suppliers, who demonstrated overwhelming support of the charity.
Who would you like to thank for helping you achieve your fundraising goal?
I want to thank everyone who has helped, my colleagues, friends and family. The money will do so much good for people in need. I’m really happy that we’ve helped raise awareness and involvement in the charity – not only at Bunzl but with our partner suppliers and customers too.
What was the most challenging part of the trek – did you ever feel like giving up?
The 12 days of wild camping, with sleepless nights and physical work was very difficult, but knowing that I was helping the charity helped me to get through it.
What was your favourite moment from the trek?
On the third night of the trek we were camping at high altitude in the snow. When we reached the campsite it was getting dark and clouds stopped us having much visibility. The next morning when we emerged from our tents, we were greeted by the incredible sight of Everest. No photos, words, or emotions could really do that experience any justice.
The second moment was the first time we met the children from the Nepalese school. They were so friendly, polite and adorable, that I instantly enjoyed being around them – particularly when playing a game of duck, duck, goose together.
What did you see that had an effect on you?
Nepal is an amazing country – I really enjoyed experiencing the culture and seeing the way people live.
There was so much noise and chaos everywhere, from traffic and honking, to cows and music. The city of Kathmandu was bustling with music – brass bands, temple bells – it felt like organised chaos.
And there were colours everywhere – Everything and everyone was painted or covered in colour powder and bright fabric – it was stunning.
The Nepalese people were very friendly – everyone from small children to elderly women and men greeted us with a friendly “Namaste” which means “I see a light in you”. They are very inspirational – It was shocking to see a tiny Sherpa carrying a massive bag about his size up the mountains, while we were lagging behind breathless carrying just our cameras and water.
What did you learn about yourself?
Experiences like these are truly unique as they make you not only physically stronger, as you are constantly pushing your limits, but also make you reconsider your life values. It’s a funny feeling to acknowledge your fragility whilst also congratulating yourself on your own bravery
The most important lesson I learned how lucky I am with what I already have – I want to always remember that.
We all embarked on this adventure to create a positive difference, to help people who are what we thought less fortunate than we are but in the end it felt like we received more than we gave.
Would you do the trek again – or recommend someone else to do it?
Absolutely! This wasn’t easy physically and mentally but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I fell in love with Nepal, and like a few of the other trekkers, I will definitely return.
Visit https://springboard.uk.net/events/fundraising/nepal-trek-2017 to find out more about the trek and the fantastic work that Springboard do.