My 10 Days

Small business, Big difference.

Skills Venture - Harriet Sanderson

The London to Haiti Challenge

Following the earthquake in Haiti on 12th January 2010 both myself and the company I work for, Elliott Wood Partnership, wanted to find a way to make a difference and assist the relief effort. As Elliott Wood Partnership is a structural engineering company, we wanted to provide support within our field. Following a newsletter from RedR, an international disaster relief charity that Elliott Wood Partnership already supports, appealing for support for their Haiti response programme, we decided as a company to organise a challenge to raise money towards this cause

We felt it was important that the event had relevance to Haiti; therefore we decided our target was to cover the distance from London to Port-au-Prince. Three routes were devised to involve as many people as possible. They were: 50mile cycle from Richmond to Reading; 10mile cycle from Richmond to Hampton Court; and for those less enamoured with cycling, a 15mile walk from Henley-on-Thames to Reading.

Having never planned something of this nature before, and with only seven weeks to create routes, raise awareness, generate sponsorship, find the destination and produce maps, it culminated in a mad dash the day before through flash floods, hail and forked lightning to put up road signs informing participants of their route. People were registering until 7pm the night before, and the maps finally printed off at 11.30pm on the 26th March.

On the 27th March 2010, the day of the challenge, the sun shone briefly as over 40 cyclists and 15 walkers congregated at their respective starting points. Undertaking the 50 mile cycle route provided some comical moments. On reaching Staines, where we left the river, cyclists in bright red t-shirts dispersed, taking every possible route out of town. Bringing up the rear, I was then thrilled to arrive at the bottom of a hill to be met by 15 cyclists in red t-shirts travelling the opposite way. The tortoise and hare fable came true with road bikes racing ahead only to become unstuck in muddy conditions, giving those on mountain bikes a chance to get ahead.

Despite detours, mud and the lure of pubs, we all completed our journeys, though it was after 8pm when the last seven appeared, and congregated on the edge of the Kennet and Avon Canal in Reading. All in all it was an amazing day, and the turn out was incredible. To all those who undertook the challenge, I greatly appreciate your support. More than 2,345 miles were covered (over half the distance to Port-au-Prince) and over £8,000 has been raised so far. This money is already being put to use by RedR in Haiti.

Last, but not least, thank you to Elliott Wood Partnership and RedR for all their assistance and support.

Harriet Sanderson