Sarah Caroll has worked for Dig Deep as a Challenge Event Officer since 2014, supporting our fundraising volunteers in the UK and providing support in Tanzania and Kenya when the trips are taking place. Sarah has climbed both Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya with Dig Deep and was previously the Chair of the University of Sheffield’s RAG committee. Here she tells us the top things she has learnt whilst working for Dig Deep.
I’ve learnt a lot more things than I've listed here whilst working for Dig Deep but here are some of my favourites!
If you go to a music festival you'll understand why what Dig Deep do is so important
At Dig Deep, there are day long celebrations for new projects in South West Kenya where one tap provides clean water to hundreds of children. In the U.K. we have a plumbing system that provides clean water at two different temperatures to multiple rooms in our homes and we don't appreciate it - except maybe for a few days over summer.
Removed from white porcelain toilets and taps in every other room, for a few days a year, festival goers face a downsized version of the communities we work with's water and sanitation management. Things to plan into your day are queuing for collecting water, buying bottled water and where are you going to poo?! But there are a lot more taps and toilets per person at Glastonbury than there are in the county of Bomet. And any bugs you've picked up during your big weekend won’t take long to leave once you get back home.
Imagine carrying water for 80 minutes to take it back to camp, and that instead of missing Craig David, you're missing your maths lesson so you don't get the grades you need to go into higher education. The toilet you use is at risk of falling on top of you when you're in it, so some people don't use it and they poo on the ground near your tent, but that's the same ground that you might sit on.You don't have proper hand washing facilities to use before you eat so you're at risk of contracting diarrhoea. You also can't buy tampons for when you get your period at the festival because nobody has told you what to do with a tampon, so you use unhygienic methods and risk getting ill that way too.
These are some of the problems that communities in South West Kenya face all year round - just without the glitter.
Who KPAP are
The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) is an NGO that is based near the Machame gate on Kilimanjaro. They fight for porters rights and issue “Partnerships for Responsible Travel” to the organisations that run climbs on the mountain. Dig Deep are the only UK charity who have this!
On some climbs, the porters are exploited. The job is in high demand, as you'll see driving up to the gate of the national park, there are hundreds of porters waiting for a job. But they risk not getting a full wage, carrying above the recommended weight, sleeping in a kitchen tent which means they can't go to sleep until climbers are done eating or even sent back down half way through the climb if it's decided they're "not needed" anymore.
KPAP are fighting all of this, they send undercover porters to inspect climbs and if you're thinking of climbing or know anybody who is - have a look at kiliporters.org to help KPAP become the organisation that keeps all climb companies up to the highest ethical standards, not just a few!
Data is life. Excel saves lives.
I didn't realise until I worked for Dig Deep how much information is behind an organisation and how beautifully and elegantly excel can display and organise this information.
There's a graph in our challenge reports that has the loveliest formula to show us what we can expect a University to raise based on the past few months and that can then be used to estimate how much we have to spend in Kenya.
Keep trying hard and be patient
Whether you're on a mountain with a banging headache, organising where to host your pub quiz or when Excel keeps crashing on your computer. Just keep going, because the rewards will be worth it. You will see the most beautiful sunrise over East Africa from 5000m above sea level, you will raise £1,500 for clean water and you will get your Microsoft software to send emails for you!!
You cannot get out of wearing in your walking boots & everyone who doesn't take walking poles does regret it
I've seen blisters the size of tennis balls on some of our fundraisers’ feet.
Nairobi is a very cool and important city
You fly in over rhinos and giraffes before you head to some stylish rooftop bars, you can go to a running track and run (far behind) world class runners. Its home to one of 3 UN headquarters and is a hub for international aid getting to South Sudan, Somalia and the rest of the continent. It’s also home to the world’s largest refugee camp and many humanitarian assistance coordinators.
There’s a lot going on.
The importance of team work - including team stretches when it all gets a bit much.
Challenge season is pretty busy to say the least. 8 groups of 20-30 students each needed a flight, a visa, insurance, all the correct kit, paying for their extra travel, giving dietary requirements and medical information. And that's before they've left Heathrow. After they arrive in Dar Es Salaam they are traveling to Moshi, being briefed on climbing the highest mountain on the continent, actually climbing the highest mountain on the continent, then holidaying on safari and Zanzibar and then travelling home. (Phew!)
We've also started thinking about our other busy period – Freshers’ weeks and recruitment which happens directly after the challenge. We're planning trips to our 45+ Universities across the U.K. and training our new Group Leaders. Sending out welcome packs, welcoming our new fundraisers with their welcome chat and we probably should tidy the office at some point too!
This can't happen without strong teamwork, taking the time to make sure you're all on the same page. I'm sure this is something everyone learns in their first job out of University, but I think Dig Deep do it extra well. We reign in any stress with a strong team plan, making sure everyone is on the same page and the occasional 3pm yoga session.
A huge thank you and good luck to Sarah who has left us to go travelling in Latin America. Since she started she has supported hundreds of fundraisers, organised our annual Snowdon training trip and is the Queen of Data. Good luck Sarah, we're going to miss you!