Sahara Challenge: Simply Business staff raise £30k for Whizz-Kidz

In November, eight intrepid adventurers from Simply Business set off for a three day trek across the Sahara, raising almost £30,000 for children’s charity Whizz-Kidz.

They climbed dunes, camped in the desert overnight and came home with an abiding love of camels.

Prepping, trekking and stargazing

Preparing for the trek was hard work, but everyone involved said preparation was the key to success. Some team members even did practice treks along the UK coast to get used to walking on sand.

But even with all the preparation, arriving in the Sahara was a bit of a shock to the system: “You imagine the desert to be just sand, but there was a huge variety of terrains,” said Chelsea Smith, Learning and Development Advisor at Simply Business. At one point in the trek they came across an area of cracked red mud - “it looked like we had landed on Mars!”

Several members of the expedition said that climbing the Chegaga dune - the largest sand dune in the Moroccan Sahara - was their standout experience of the trip. They started the climb at 4am and reached the top in time to watch the sun rise.

Others preferred the rather more stationary activities: “My best memory was sitting around the campfire on the last night in the Sahara,” said Massimo, who’s part of our Tailored Cover team, “Full moon, stars in the sky, the Burba guides singing in their native tongue - it was so surreal but at the same time such an amazing experience.”

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Desert challenges

While the trek was full of incredible experiences, it’s not called the ‘Sahara Challenge’ for nothing. The group faced a number of challenging moments over the course of their trek.

One of the biggest causes of apprehension within the team was not knowing what to expect. “You have to take everything as it comes,” said Petra Studholme, our Head of Acquisition, “There will be difficult times and you just have to roll with it. You have to get stuck in - that’s what makes it a challenge.”

“My main fear was creatures,” Chelsea added, “Each time I told someone that I was scared of the snakes, and the scorpions, they would introduce me to a whole new thing to be scared of - camel spiders, flying scorpions, desert rats!”

However, when Chelsea later met a desert rat, which had decided to take up residence in the camp’s toilet tent, it was only the size of a field mouse. The bigger challenge turned out to be when Chelsea tripped while walking down a sand dune and found she couldn’t stop and had to run the whole way down: “Imagine a downhill skier but with no skis and a lot more screaming!”

£30,000 for disabled children

The aim of the challenge was to raise money for Whizz-Kidz, our new charity partner. We’re aiming to raise over £150k over the next three years to support their work with disabled children.

The adventurers returned to work with sore feet and tired muscles, but they also brought back incredible memories and the knowledge that they’d raised a staggering £29,699 for Whizz-Kidz.

With Simply Business covering the cost of the trip, all money raised by the team went directly to the charity.

For more information, visit our impact page.

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Our approach to fundraising

We believe it’s our job (individually and as a company) to look out for and strengthen the world in which we operate. That goes for communities and environments, both social and ecological.

For the Sahara Challenge, a lot of the money came from within the company - staff donated in exchange for delicious cakes made by members of the Sahara team on an almost daily basis in the run up to the trek.

Most of the money raised came from an auction of promises, where people from across the business volunteered their time, effort and skills - from knitting a personalised desk buddy to lessons in languages.

There were also whackier fundraising schemes, such as camel sponsorship, where you could bid to become the sponsor of a trek camel who would write you an email every day the team were in the Sahara. Unfortunately, it turns out the desert didn’t have the best wifi, so the emails were a little less frequent than initially intended.

“Having that money behind you makes you stronger, makes you want to push to get through the hard times,” said Petra, “The challenge might be finished but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep fundraising.”

Work for Simply Business

If you like the sound of the way we do things, check out our careers page to find out more about working for Simply Business. An opportunity to participate in the Sahara Trek is just one of many great things about working here, as our first place position in the 2015 and 2016 ‘Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to work for’ list demonstrates.

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