A BALLYMONEY worker has expressed her sincere thanks to everyone who helped raise a staggering £70,000 for Oxfam Ireland!
Denise Brewster, Duty Officer at Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre took part in the challenging 11 day Trek Peru May 2012.
Speaking to the Times about her ‘trip of a lifetime’, Denise explained: “Well what a journey! The dust has finally settled and now I can take the time to reflect on my amazing trip to Peru with Oxfam Ireland. From the past year of fundraising to the many, many hours of training, I can now look back and see what the group, and I, have achieved and experienced together.
“Our group consisted of 25 volunteers from throughout the North and South of Ireland, three local guides, our guide and a doctor - who over the 11 intensive days of trekking not only became ‘The’ team but also my lifeline and good friends. And, what’s more, together we have helped to raise over £70,000 for Oxfam, and there’s more money still to come in.
“The money raised will go towards supporting Oxfam’s long term development work in East, Central and Southern Africa. These development programmes aim to support the poorest communities in Africa in a way that avoids dependency. They help people to help themselves, accessing their basic rights to a secure livelihood, shelter, clean water, education and healthcare. They also empower people to seek their rights at a local and national level and to have a voice in how their lives are governed.”
The 11 day trip saw the group climbing for hours each day, trekking through previously unknown valleys along spectacular mountain passes and down long forgotten trails, and required extreme physical and mental dedication as well as huge perseverance.
Denise, who lives in Coleraine, continued: “Our amazing journey began when we flew from Dublin into Lima in Peru and then onto Cusco, Sacred Valley, Cachicata. There we hiked in the Andes for five days, reaching a peak of 4,500m and extreme conditions including severe coldness at night and heat in the 30s during the day, and not to mention the altitude.
“We walked on average eight to nine hours a day. However day five was the longest and hardest day which turned out to be 11 and a half hours of trekking!
“Every morning we were up at 5.30am to prepare for a climb we just looked forward to how the day was going to unfold and what we would experience - climbing through dramatic scenery, past a stunning waterfall and visiting some amazing historical ruins and sites.
“During these five long days the only people we saw were a few local people who lived high in the mountains. However despite not having much, these people were always smiling and really looked after each other. We even saw a young boy of eight carrying his baby sister of one and a half years on his back. We were able to give them our snacks of fruit and even enjoyed a game of frisbee with some of the youngsters.
“One night we camped at a local school and we brought the children small gifts. I couldn’t believe how patient and courteous the children were, putting their smaller siblings up to the front so they wouldn’t be missed out. They were all so grateful of their gifts - it was very rewarding to see and extremely humbling.
“On the descent we went to Macchu Picchu to do the Inca trail. This is a sacred mountain and a very special place. It was here that we all took time to reflect on why we had come and of the people back home that had helped and supported us. We all felt like this trip had been a gift and we were very fortunate to have experience it. It made you realise that life IS a gift.”
Thanking everyone who supported her throughout the months of fundraising and training Denise added: “I have just been so overwhelmed at the generosity of everyone. People have helped me with their time and support. A special thanks must go to local businesses and the general public for their truly amazing donations during street collections, charity events and an Asda bag pack.
“So many people have given so generously and I really can’t thank them enough. However it was their generosity that gave me the strength when, at times, I was getting it hard on the mountain - I just thought ‘you’re doing this walk for those people back home too, don’t let them down’. By thinking of those who so kindly donated it seemed to give me that extra strength, I surprised myself were I got the energy from but I did and I did it.
“To thank everyone individually would take a long time, and they all know who they are, however I would particularly like to send my appreciation to the general public and a number of local businesses including The Port Hotel, Portrush, Coleraine Fire places, Ann Lyons – Shoe Rack Portrush, North Coast and Northern Ireland football Supporter’s club, Coleraine Football Club, Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre, Johnstons Bar Coleraine, McNultys Bar Coleraine, Tone Trim and Tan Ballymoney, Greens Spar Craigavon, Susan Dorans Hairdressers Lurgan, Ballymoney and Coleraine Times, as well as ASDA shoppers Coleraine, Coleraine Town shoppers on 28 November 2011 and 8 December 2011 and Ballymoney Town Christmas lights switch on visitors.
“I always knew doing the Oxfam Ireland trip was going to be a once in a lifetime experience but never in my wildest dreams did I image that it would be a life changing experience which I will never, ever forget.”
* Oxfam are currently recruiting teams to take part in their largest fundraising event- Trail trekker. The event takes place over the first weekend in September and will see teams taking on either a 100km or 50km trail from Newcastle in Co Down to Carlingford in Co Louth and fundraising for Oxfam’s work. If you would like to find out more visit the website www.oxfamireland.org/trek.