Horse lends a helping hoof as Maria heads for Malawi

15 April 2016

To ride a horse from Newark to Malawi’s second city may be an impossibility – but Newark and Sherwood District Council landlord liaison officer Maria Brambles persuaded one colleague to cover at least some of the 7,614 miles on horseback as part of a sponsored virtual journey before Maria flies out there for real.

Maria’s colleagues in the council’s 16-strong Housing Options team have gathered round to support her charity challenge by clocking up sponsored miles. They aim to contribute £500 towards a project which will see Maria helping slum-dwellers to build new homes in the country’s second city of Blantyre.‌‌

“Everyone in the homeless team is combining their totals to walk, run, cycle, swim or ride the equivalent distance from Newark to Blantyre and we are looking for sponsors for this incredible effort, with all the funds raised going to the charity Homeless International, or Real Equity for All (REALL) as it’s now known ” said Maria.

Each team member has to average 2.5 miles per day if they are to reach the virtual destination in time: “All the activity will be recorded on pedometers and Fitbits as we aim to ‘reach’ Blantyre, by September 2016, when I head off on my trip.”

Horse-riding colleague Helen Richmond has chosen the most off-beat method of supporting Maria by riding all her miles on horseback: “I just love horses and I love riding, so it seemed the natural thing to do, to have fun and raise money at the same time,” said Helen.

Merry, the horse Helen is riding, is actually a cross between a Thoroughbred and a Gypsy Cob and belongs to Helen’s friend Pam Farquhar.

The charity asks for a minimum of £3,500 from participants but Maria is contributing £1,500 of that herself to cover the cost of the trip, so that all the fund-raising proceeds will go to help the charity. Once in Blantyre, she will be working on a self-build housing project alongside slum-dwellers who are working their way towards building clean, safe, affordable housing, with proper sanitation.

Two years ago Maria travelled to Nepal with Homeless International , supported by former colleagues at Newark and Sherwood Homes,  to see how the charity was helping to house people there and to contribute her own hard labour: “When I went to Nepal the work was digging foundations – so what we do this time depends on what stage of the build they’re at on the particular project that we go to.

“But we will probably be working 10-hour days on the community build. That was what we were doing last time, just with a pickaxe and shovel. It was hot! And tiring – but good fun.”

Maria’s work at Newark and Sherwood involves  housing homeless families, so the latest trip will be very much a busman’s holiday for her, but after the physical toil there is a reward in the form of a  challenging trek to climb the Mulanje Mountains and reach Sapitwa, the highest point in Southern Africa at a fraction over 3,000m.

First though comes the hard labour of raising the £2,000 and clocking up the miles. “I quite enjoyed the fund-raising last time – obviously that’s a big part of it, raising the funds so that you feel that you’ve earned your place there,” said Maria.

 “People are logging extra activities – maybe they’ve been for a run or a bike ride or been swimming over the weekend and that will all go towards the total while at the same time improving their own health and fitness. The extra activity links in with our Wellbeing At Work programme so it’s a win-win with people benefiting themselves as well as contributing to a good cause.”

Director – Community at Newark and Sherwood District Council Andy Statham said: “This is a brilliant example of the passion and team spirit at the council and I am pleased that the staff have been inspired by our Wellbeing at Work programme. We wish Maria and the team all the best.”

To sponsor the team, please visit their Justgiving page

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