I conquered the Great Wall
Friday 17 April 2015

Ingrid on the Great Wall of ChinaI'd like to share my most recent fundraising venture, which was trekking the Great Wall of China for the Brandon Trust Dream Fund, along with my colleague Bev. I'm still a little jet-lagged having returned from this unforgettable experience only a couple of days ago. Words can’t convey how awesome it was. Even the photos don’t come close and I think they're pretty good!

Two years ago I'd become really unfit and needed to do something to improve my well-being. So, at the age of 48, I decided to have a go at running, which required overcoming my limiting belief that I couldn’t run. Well, I proved myself wrong and after two months I was running up to 5k. When I then saw the opportunity to sign up to the Frenchay 10k last year to raise money for Brandon Trust, I decided that was the perfect goal to work towards. After achieving that I caught the fundraising bug and ran the Bristol 10k too. Not only was I a lot fitter and healthier, I also raised £500 for the Dream Fund which offers opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autism to reach for their dreams. A win-win situation!

Ingrid Climbs the Great WallI've thought about travelling to China for a number of years. I love experiencing different cultures and the Great Wall fascinated me. Having had a taste of how it feels to do something challenging that raises money for people with learning disabilities to do what they love, meant it really was a no-brainer when I saw the Great Wall Challenge on the list of fundraising activities. I signed up spontaneously but it would be a lie if I said I didn’t have moments of doubt along the way. The preparations alone were challenging and involved a tough gym regime, over many weeks, to be prepared for climbing thousands of steps.

Well, having now done it, all the time, resources and effort have been so worth it! The five days of trekking were incredible. We covered restored and original sections of the Wall, which meant that the terrain at times was very tricky. Talking about thousands of steps is not an exaggeration; they were real, and also uneven in height and depth, as well as steep. But the amazing views and the feeling at the top, and at the end of the day, more than made up for the effort. We also met some amazing people, ate delicious Chinese food with chopsticks, and had a chance to spend a day in Beijing. I could go on…

The experience was incredibly liberating. Being autistic myself, achieving a sense of well-being has always been that little bit harder. Exercise and accomplishing challenging goals are some of the things that are very important to me and which give me a sense of personal freedom. Everyone needs opportunities to experience freedom and I feel very lucky to have been able to do this for myself, whilst at the same time, increasing opportunities for others.

Here's the link to my JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/Ingrid-Vlam2/

Ingrid Vlam
Area Director