This month, the Mary’s Meals Quad team decided that instead of doing monotonous work outs at the gym we would find a way of training whilst also doing something worthwhile. This way we would not only be working hard but also doing good in the process.
Along with some enthusiastic volunteers, Joe and I both headed to the Mary’s Meals warehouse in Glasgow to load thousands of backpacks onto the Mary’s Meals container destined for Malawi. It was hard work but it was definitely worth it!
While loading the backpacks I thought about some of the children receiving Mary’s Meals and how they would enjoy their backpacks when they arrived. Some of the schools Mary’s Meals reaches are very remote and difficult to get to. St Peter’s Primary School is situated on Likoma Island which means that receiving their likuni phala (porridge) isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
Due to poor soil, Likoma Island has to import most of its food but the large ships cannot quite reach the mainland due to poor infrastructure. Large ships delivering food must be docked in a deeper part of the lake, further from the mainland, and small boats are then used to ferry the goods to land.
However, this doesn’t stop our incredible volunteers and parents on the island. They are always excited to see the ship arrive and they jump at the chance to be ferried to the bigger ship to collect the 20kg bags of likuni phala to deliver to St Peter’s Primary School where the children will receive a daily meal in their place of education.
Training for the Quad can be difficult, but knowing that our efforts are going to help children in the world’s poorest communities makes it so much easier!
The kayak up Loch Tay will seem tough after the mountain phase. You will be tired, but you will be safe. The journey made by many refugees is long and risky and includes crossing the Mediterranean Sea. This is a journey that Walaa and her family had to undergo in 2015. Walaa and her family were lucky enough to all survive the journey and when they arrived in Europe Mercy Corps were there to support them.
At 8 months old, Fatima was sleeping in her bed when a rocket fell on her house and sparked a fire. Walaa, Fatima’s mother ran into the wreckage to find her daughter on fire.
Fatima has had a dozen operations to treat her burns, but she can’t walk, hear or speak. As the Syrian conflict dragged on, it became increasingly difficult for Walaa to access medical care for Fatima. Walaa and her husband decided their only choice was to try to get to Europe.
Walaa’s husband left Syria first in July 2015. Six months later, Walaa and her children - 4-year-old Sami, 3-year-old Fatima and 2-year-old Salma - left too. They walked the desert for two days to Turkey’s border, where smugglers took them across the country and across the Aegean Sea. Walaa and her children were forced to get into a flimsy rubber dinghy; the journey across the water was both dangerous and terrifying.
On the Greek island of Lesvos, waiting to find out if her family’s asylum would be granted and their family could be reunited in Germany, Walaa told us of her fears. “We do not know what will happen to us. We are trapped in the middle, far from our family and far from my husband. We are alone, and it’s tough.”
To ease that burden, Mercy Corps provided Walaa with a prepaid card to purchase food and clothes for her family and pay for transportation costs. In a life of unknowns, cash has given Walaa a feeling of freedom and dignity; the ability to choose how to provide for, and meet the basic needs of her children. Walaa uses the cash to create little moments of joy for the children, such as purchasing a treat of peanuts and soda for Sami and Salma. “So they can forget the hunger and the horrible days they’ve lived. So they can be happy.”
As you’re training for that 7 mile stretch of Loch Tay in your kayak, remember that your journey is enabling Mercy Corps to help those who have been forced to flee conflict. Push through the paddling pain and think that together, we can make a difference.
Want to get an independent insight into the Quadrathlon? James Bingham completed the event in 2016 and produced a fantastic blog which can be found here.
If you have not tried Kayaking before you need to make sure you gather some experience prior to the event. All participants will use 2 seater Malibu 2 kayaks (issued by the event). They sit low in the water so you are guaranteed to get a bit wet but its ideal to cool you down after completing the mountain phase of the run! For inexperienced kayakers, here are our top tips to get you started:
Joe, one half of Team Quadrophenia from Mary’s Meals, has been hill training to ensure he’s ready to tackle the seven Munros he will face on the 8th of July. He reflects on this challenge and the challenge facing those Mary’s Meals strives to reach.
‘Everyone at Mary’s Meals has been really supportive of us taking on the Great Quad. Not only have our colleagues helped us with our fundraising efforts, but some have taken it a step further and joined us on our training.
Along with some friends at Mary’s Meals we decided to climb Ben Vrackie (2,757ft) near Pitlochry very early on a brisk Saturday morning, which seemed like a great idea at the time. We didn’t feel all that fresh when we first started the climb but a few hours breathing in the clear Scottish air certainly changed that.
We finally reached the top and, while spirits were high, we were exhausted.
It made me think back to a story from Mary’s Meals’ new award winning film Generation Hope.
A few years ago, we were asked to begin feeding at a school in a remote village in Southern Malawi situated at the top of Chaone Mountain, standing more than 1000 metres above sea level. There was no road up the mountainside, and therefore Mary’s Meals would be unable to transport the food to the school. The villagers were undeterred: they would carry the food to the summit.
In the film a woman named Elby grins into the camera as she hauls three bags of likuni phala – a collective weight of 60kg – onto her head. She balances the load as she joins a chain of women beginning the difficult ascent to the peak. As the women arrive at the school, teachers lead their pupils in celebration; a welcoming song and dance for Mary’s Meals and the news that the children of Chaone will now receive a daily mug of likuni phala (a vitamin-enriched maize porridge) in school.
By taking part in the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon and fundraising for Mary’s Meals you truly are transforming lives.
The women of Chaone Mountain stop halfway through their hard climb for a well-earned break but they still continue to smile and dance… and they look a lot better than we did halfway through our climb! One of the ladies explains their cheerful approach to the task ahead, she says: “Walking this path is indeed rough. But we are motivated knowing that each long journey begins with a single step.”
Team Quadrophenia, Mary’s Meals
Many say the mountain phase is the toughest and most vital section of the Quad. Whether you run or walk, it will be both a mental and physical challenge.
Imagine having to climb up mountain terrain everyday just to go to work.
This is the life of Carlos Vicente – a snow pea farmer in Guatemala. Carlos’ fields perch precariously on the side of a steep hill, an hour’s hike up a dusty trail.
About 80 percent of the snow peas consumed in the United States are grown in Guatemala. Small farmers like Carlos tend to grow maize and beans to feed their families for part of the year, and then plant a crop like snow peas to sell for extra income.
But new regulations going into effect soon could keep Carlos and other small farmers out of the valuable US market. When the new rules take effect, any produce imported to the US, including Carlos’ snow peas, must be traceable back to the field where it was grown – regardless of whether it is on the side of a mountain.
Farmers like Carlos are often poor, and many can’t read – because of these challenges, it would be nearly impossible for them to comply with the new regulations on their own. To be shut out of selling their peas in the US would be disastrous for these families.
In order to help these farming communities thrive, Mercy Corps has partnered with an exporter to introduce new tracking software, called Farmforce, to the growers. After farming the peas, a guide from Carlos’ farming cooperative group arrives and puts all the information about the work he’s just done into Carlos’ Farmforce profile on a smartphone. He records what was planted and marks the GPS coordinates. As the peas grow, the software also tracks information about fertilizers and pesticides used.
Farmers then deliver their crop to be weighed and inspected closely to make sure it meets the exporter’s quality requirements. Each harvest is entered into the Farmforce software, and then each farmer’s snow peas are sent to the exporter to be shipped to the US.
Because of the Farmforce software, Carlos knows that he can keep growing snow peas, earning enough income to give his family a better future.
He’s proud of the way his community and the farming cooperative have risen to the challenge of new technology. “As an organisation, we’re doing things together. Whenever we do these things together, we succeed.”
As you take on the Munros of the Quad, know your fundraising is helping Mercy Corps partner with local communities to implement innovative projects that support people like Carlos.
15 miles, easy you might think, just a little more than half marathon? Throw in 7 Munro summits with a total of 7500 feet of ascent and it makes things a little more challenging! This makes it the toughest and longest section of the Quadrathlon. We have put together a few tips to assist your comfort and fitness on the hills:
We all remember the inspirational Yusra Mardini: the 18-year-old Syrian refugee who competed in the 2016 Olympic Games. Despite adangerous journey from Syria to Germany, where she swam for her life in Greek
coastal waters, Yusra continued her passion for swimming and became a member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team.
It is girls like Yusra that Mercy Corps aims to support. Mercy Corps is a leading global organisation, working in over 40 countries, powered by the belief that a better world is possible. Our team has mounted one of the largest responses to the crisis in Syria, impacting the lives of more than 7.4 million people since 2012.
With your fundraising from the Quad, we can continue our work to help people across the world to reach their full potential. We hope that Yusra’s story will inspire you not only to fundraise, but to train hard for your Quad swim. Mercy Corps looks forward to seeing you in the waters of Loch Tay in July 2017!
Introducing this year’s Mary’s Meals Quad team, Quadrophenia!
After volunteering at the Quad last year, Joe and I decided to sign up for the 2017 event. After all, how hard can it be?
Now the excitement has finally settled in, the size of the challenge has started to hit home. “Athletic” isn’t the word I would use to describe our team, so many hours of training will be required for to get us into ship shape!
We decided to have a look over the challenging Quad route and hit a stumbling block at thevery first hurdle, Joe can’t swim! Thankfully, at the time of writing and after lots of training, Joe can now swim 20 lengths and has a new found love for the water! Hopefully this means we will be able to make our journey across Loch Tay in July.
However, it is important to remember that this small challenge pales in comparison to the daily challenges faced by children in in the world’s poorest communities, where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education.
By taking part in the UK’s toughest outdoor sporting event we are giving hope to children throughout the world by providing one daily meal in a place of education. I promise that the pain and struggle of being a Quadrathlete is definitely worth it!
It is thanks to your fundraising, that we are able to feed 880,383 children in Malawi. Mary’s Meals is now reaching 1,187,104 children globally. On behalf of all the children receiving Mary’s Meals, thank you.
It would be great to hear on the Quad Facebook page any challenges you’ve come against and how you managed to overcome them.
I look forward to updating you on our progress next month.
Lucy, Mary’s Meals Fundraising Support Officer and one half of Team Quadrophenia
It goes without saying that swimming in a pool is very different to open water swimming. To begin with the open water is colder, darker and you don’t have nice blue lines to follow! Here are a few key swim skills from a past participant and experienced Triathlete on how to make the swim a little less daunting!
When swimming in open water races you need to make sure you are swimming in a straight line, the shortest route. To ensure this you need to practice sighting. Sight an immovable object on the skyline e.g. a building, tree or landmark, not a moving object like a boat! If water conditions are calm and you can sight the changing tent from distance then even better! Every 8 to 10 arm pulls glance quickly up as you breathe, sight your object then carry on.
This is breathing on both sides as opposed to just one – unilateral. This is important so you can see what is going on all around you. The swim is a straight line course with no buoys to go around but its essential to know where your fellow swimmers are to avoid clashing arms and feet. Practice this in training by breathing every 3 or 5 arm pulls.
To do this you swim right behind a swimmer and use their speed to carry you along, it takes practice though. You will conserve energy (as you do on a bike) because the swimmer in front is breaking the water in front of them and you move through water that is already moving, which is easier.
Front crawl is the most efficient stroke. If swimming is not your strength and you would rather do breaststroke, don’t panic, you will not be alone! There’s no shame in being able to keep your eyes on the target and compare notes with your teammate. Remember you have 60 minutes to complete the 0.8 mile swim.
Try Open Water:
The more time you can spend swimming in open water in your wetsuit the better. It also helps get used to the temperature difference between a pool and a loch! There are opportunities to swim in open water across the country so no matter where you live, contact your nearest lido, triathlon club, swimming pool or have a look online! If you would like to practise in Loch Tay, from Kindrochit, give us a call or send an email. We offer swim training and accommodation is available (depending on availability) in the Kindrochit Garden Flat