Thursday, 8 November 2018

Walking wonders - but more challenges ahead

WELL we did it! Four of us - Sheila, Krysia, Morag and yours truly managed to get round the Watchtree Nature Reserve's 5km nature trail 6.4 times to complete the '20 Miles For Carlisle Mencap' sponsored walk.

We're keeping the special JustGiving page open for a number of weeks yet, but all in all we are confident to have raised more than £1,500 for our charity. We all felt it the next day - some more than others! - but we're all very chuffed to have done it.

And special mention must be made of support workers Kelsey and Becca and service user Sarah, who uses a wheelchair. Those three stuck with us for the whole 20 miles, even though they weren't sponsored, giving up a big chunk of their Sundays! 

So now I'm starting to plan my big walk for next year. For to be honest, the Watchtree event was a gentle stroll in the park compared to what this 'fifty-cough ahem' person is planning next April. I'm aiming to walk from our Hart Street children's centre in Ulverston all the way to our children's facility at the Grace Little Centre in north Carlisle - following the route of the 84-mile Cumbrian Way. You're mad, a few people have said to me. Well, lots of people in the past have said that to me, not necessarily about the sponsored walk plan, but bizarrely I'm actually looking forward to it.

And anyway, our CEO Sheila Gregory, who is 61-years-young, is planning to complete the Hadrian's Wall Walk next summer/early autumn and that is not much shorter than the Cumbrian Way. So hats off to her big-style. And with that in mind I can hardly back out now, can I, even if I wanted too!

On a more serious note, today I represented Carlisle Mencap at the annual general meeting of the Cumbria Council for Voluntary Services at Rheged, Penrith. Two of the speakers were Jane Ide, of the National Association of Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), and Mike Wild of MACC - Manchester's voluntary and community support group. And both did not mince their words about the difficult times ahead for the Third Sector.

Austerity, uncertainty over Brexit, lack of leadership - someone would say action as well - from Whitehall, falling wages, and a new generation who aren't just happy to give but expect something back in return, mean that all charities, voluntary groups, and care organisations will, as Jane put it, "face worrying times ahead, with it likely to get tougher before it gets better." Jane said that foodbanks were facing very uncertain futures too, as donations fall as people continue to tighten their belts.

They weren't being the prophets of doom - just telling it as it is. As Jane and Mike both said, over the last five years the numbers of people volunteering to help the Third Sector Network is actually up, but the total hours worked by volunteers is down. That is why myself, and others at Carlisle Mencap and the Royal Mencap Society, are so keen to get a band of reliable volunteers together so that we can hold bigger and better fundraising events that try and draw in the public to help us raise much-needed cash for our vital services.

So please - if you can spare a few hours a month, or you know someone looking for a new challenge in their spare time, tell them to contact me on or on 07341 865382. Thanks!

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