Mark, who is supported by national learning disability charity Hft, joins an eight-strong team from the charity comprised of operations and fundraising staff and their friends and family. The group of intrepid explorers, who are hoping to raise £16,000, will be braving sandstorms, intense heat, freezing nights and some of the world’s tallest sand dunes.
Inspiration for the epic adventure came from Mark, who, alongside a friend, was one of the first two people with learning disabilities to complete a fundraising trek in Iceland in 2017. The 52 year old has been keen to plan his next adventure ever since and, after looking for something completely different, made the decision to swap snow for sand.
Setting off on 6 November, the team will be travelling across the largest hot desert in the world, with their route taking them through bare fields, palm trees and rolling dunes. Their trek begins at the village of M’Hamid – an oasis at the most southern part of the desert and takes in the dunes of Ait Oumir and L’erg Zaher.
All funds raised are set to go towards new projects at Hft services across the country. This includes transforming a greenhouse in a community allotment at the service where Mark lives in Walberton, allowing people to continue enjoying the therapeutic benefits of gardening and home-grown fruit and vegetables over the winter months. Money raised will also be used to help fund new activities and equipment at a day opportunities service in Kent and to build a fully accessible toilet at a service in Oxfordshire.
As well as preparing for their trek by following a training schedule that gradually builds up to eight hours of walking per day, the team have also been busy fundraising. The wide range of activities taken on spans from raising money at a community music festival to holding a fashion show open to the public. As part of his fundraising efforts, Mark’s service in Walberton is holding a Room in the Broom Halloween event on 30 October, where the whole family can enjoy a magical walk through the woods and a whole host of themed games, crafts and experiences.
Mark said: “This will a huge challenge but it will be a real eye-opener and an amazing adventure. I am looking forward to being part of a team raising money for such great projects too.”
Jodi Harford, Regional Fundraising Manager at Hft, said: “Mark’s tenacity is a huge inspiration to our whole team, and we’re so excited to be setting off on this adventure, which promises to be the challenge of a lifetime.
“People with learning disabilities face obstacles that are hard to imagine. We use our skills, experience and creative ideas to help people overcome them. That can range from round the clock support to helping with specific challenges such as building a social life or developing skills for independent living. All funds raised will go towards supporting more people like Mark to live the best life possible.”
Hft currently supports more than 2,500 people with learning disabilities across the country. This includes supporting people with learning disabilities to live independently in their own homes, providing employment services to help people develop skills and experience for work and helping people to pursue hobbies, make new friends and get involved in their local communities.
To find out more about the Room on the Broom event, visit www.hft_rotb.eventbrite.co.uk
To donate, visit the team’s fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/HftSahara2019