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4th July 2020

Training Update 2 - The Tubs

Training Update 2 - The Tubs

Elfreda Whitty and Kirsty Norris both work as Programme Officers for Mary’s Meals, so they’ve seen first-hand the difference that fundraising events like The Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon can make. This month, the pair have donned their helmets and jumped on their road bikes to prepare for the gruelling 34 mile cycle.

Elfreda has been cycling with the Edinburgh Triathletes Club and said: “The club have been really generous in helping me with my fundraising. The weather has not been great but it’s been really useful to improve my road cycling technique in a group, as well as getting used to cycling against the wind and in the cold!”

Speaking of braving the weather, Kirsty has been taking on the roads of Glasgow each and every morning, cycling to and from work. Kirsty said: “Often it can be difficult to fit in training with a full time job and family commitments, but I have found it easy to cycle to work, and I feel more energized for the day! I have just invested in a new road bike and I’m excited about it arriving.”

However, Kirsty will need to wait before taking it on a test ride because she is in Malawi for the month of May visiting Mary’s Meals’ largest country programme. Kirsty said: “The people I meet in Malawi are very kind and always willing to lend a helping hand, so hopefully I will be able borrow a bike for some of the field trip, even if it does only have one gear! I have a great photo that I’ve shared with this training update of some of the Mary’s Meals Malawi volunteers and local school children with their well-loved bike.

The girls are already planning some joint training for when Kirsty gets home, including a cycle up near Kenmore, close to the official Quad route. Elfreda commented: “I am looking forward to taking in the scenery around Loch Tay — I know the views are breath-taking — but nervous about the punishing route. It will all be worth it in the end, especially because I know that my fundraising will make a huge difference to Mary’s Meals.

“It’s amazing that Mary’s Meals is helping more than 996,000 of the world’s poorest children with a daily meal in school, where they will gain an education that can be their route out of poverty.”

Chemmy Alcott: Core & Body Awareness

Chemmy Alcott: Core & Body Awareness

Chemmy Alcott, Britain’s number one female alpine skier, will participate in the 2015 Quad, together with Dougie Crawford, Britain’s fastest male skier, who is also her husband.

When we spoke to Chemmy last week she said: “You need to use so many different muscle groups to train for the Quad because of the different elements of the race. For the next two and half weeks, Dougie and I will be in Austria where we will be using our beautiful surroundings to start our Quad training, with some strenuous hikes!

To help Quadratheletes get ready for the kayak portion of the race, Chemmy has shared her top core and body awareness training tips:

Training Update - The Tubs

Elfreda Whitty and Kirsty Norris both work as Programme Officers for Mary’s Meals, so they’ve seen first-hand the difference that fundraising events like The Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon can make. The pair have signed up to take on The Quadrathlon this year and, despite time-consuming field trips, have already begun training and fundraising with enthusiasm. This month we hear how Elfreda is getting on with her training.

Elfreda was in Kenya at the beginning of March and said, “I’m just back from a field trip which made training a little problematic. During the trip I visited the region of Turkana in north-west Kenya, an arid land with daily temperatures of 40 degrees or above. The region has been hit hard by drought and rising food insecurity.”

Elfreda was staying in the town of Lodwar, which is the administrative capital of Turkana County, and despite visiting some of the fifty nursery schools where Mary’s Meals are provided, she still found time to catch up on her training. Elfreda told us, “It was March when I visited, the hottest time of year running up to the rainy season which should start in April, but is not guaranteed leading to lack of food and water. There was a hill just behind my guest house and the daily climb was my way to keep up my training for the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon. It was a short but steep hill and so I decided to treat it as some good interval training. Considering the heat I’m sure a Munro during the Scottish summer will be a breeze!”

Although Elfreda sounds full of confidence she had to draw the line at practising kayaking or swimming, “Lake Turkana was close by but I quickly dismissed going for a wee swim or kayak when I heard it was infested with crocodiles!”

Now that she is back in Scotland she has been swimming outdoors in different lochs where, thankfully, there are no crocodiles, although maybe a Loch Ness Monster.

Elfreda has witnessed what your fundraising will do for children receiving Mary’ Meals and has been working on “The Tubs” Fundraising Page.

“I think about the Turkana people’s great resilience and that readily accessible food and water should never be taken for granted. I am so glad that Mary’s Meals is helping 989,791 of the world’s poorest children with a daily meal in school, where they will gain an education that can be their route out of poverty.

From Kampala To Kindrochit: Part 4

Dusting off the kayak

The kayak section of the Quadrathlon is probably the section of the race I am most confident with. The kayak has played a big role in my family holidays for many years, whether in the sea off the north coast of Java island in Indonesia, or paddling in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, I’ve always enjoyed the sense of freedom that you get from moving across water under your own steam.

However, just because I’m comfortable in a kayak, doesn’t meet I won’t need to do any training. Far from it! So far, my kayak training has been on the rowing machine in the gym, and during our Easter holiday in Kenya. But, I do need to do more and I will be following Chemmy Alcott’s training tips this month to strengthen my core and body awareness to the letter! She didn’t become Britain’s number one women alpine skier without a lot of effort, training and dedication, and I’m going to need all the help I can get.

As we arrived back in Uganda from our Easter break, we returned to a Kampala that is much cooler than the one we left, the rains have begun, so now there is also plenty of mud on the dirt roads, but it is less dusty. The cooler weather is good for me as I train in the mornings.

The rains have not only brought welcome relief from the heat, but will also add volume to the water of Lake Victoria, which supports the livelihoods of more than 3.5 million people in three countries (Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya) and it is used for transport and trade across east Africa. For many people in this part of the world, being on a boat all day is a way of life. While you are training in your kayaks and as we use them to traverse the width of Loch Tay in July, spare a thought for the many fishermen, and their families, who depend on boats every day for their livelihoods.

I also returned from our Easter holidays to see that our team fundraising page total is steadily increasing. We have already raised £150 for the communities of Karamoja! This will support 110 families to create sustainable vegetable gardens, ensuring that mothers and babies receive the nutritious food they need to stay healthy.

With just three months to go to the Quadrathlon, I hope your training, and fundraising, is going well!


‘It was worth every second’ - Participant Interview

‘It was worth every second’ - Participant Interview

Peter Higgins – Mary’s Meals Board Director, ‘It was worth every second’.

Peter Higgins is a Chairman of two retailers, Governor of St Paul’s Boys School in London, Director of Charles Tyrwitt Shirts and a Board Director of Mary’s Meals. Like that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Peter took on the Quad in 2013 and raised more than £20,000 for its beneficiary charities, Mary’s Meals and Mercy Corps.

Peter took time out of his hectic schedule to answer some questions about his Quadrathlon journey, from fitness to fundraising….

What possessed you to take part in one of the toughest sporting events in Scotland?

‘I am incapable of keeping fit, unless I have a goal. I loathe the gym, I hate running and cannot see the point of cycling, unless I have a time to beat. So, together with eight friends, I committed to competing in the 2013 Quadrathlon, to raise money for great charities and to get fit!’

What are your top fundraising tips?

‘Fundraising relies heavily on the generosity of friends; however, they all know that you are going to suffer untold amounts of pain, so are unsurprisingly happy to contribute. I set up an online fundraising page and then came up with quirky ideas such as shaving Mary’s Meals’ initials into my chest hair!’

‘I approached my friends, family and colleagues first and then targeted businesses. It’s important to keep it personal when approaching businesses – tailor your email to the reader. Also, check if your employer will match your fundraising, since you could literally double the money you can raise for these great causes – many companies will have a scheme where they match every £1 you raise!’

‘Approaching local press is also a great way to raise awareness in your community, I found the press release included in the Fundraising Guide really useful’.

How did you feel after completing the Quad?

‘At the finish line, the adrenalin and relief at finishing were such that we had a wild night of celebration, but on the plane home the next morning, my legs would not move and I had to come down the aeroplane steps using my arms only! It took me three weeks to fully recover, but it was worth every second. I plan to do it again in a couple of years with two of my children, who will sadly beat me hands down… in fact, I might need to ask them to carry my rucksack!’

From Kampala To Kindrochit: Part 3

Fundraising – it’s not as hard as you think!

So, how many of you have begun to ask your friends to support your fundraising for the Quadrathlon? Some people tell me that they find this the hardest bit of signing up to an endurance race. But, compared to an 0.8mile swim, 15mile walk, 7mile kayak and a 34mile bike ride, I would say that raising £450 (as a minimum) is the least of our worries!

Let me make things easier for you.

As regular readers of this blog know, I live in Uganda. But, I don’t just live in Uganda, I work in some of the toughest areas of Uganda for Mercy Corps. This includes the startling beautiful, yet hot, dusty and conflict-affected Karamoja region in the north eastern corner of Uganda.

Poverty is desperate in Karamoja, the climate is harsh and persistent poor harvests as a result of dry spells and droughts and a lack of water exacerbate the problems. It is a place so poor that 63% of people live on less than a £1.50 a day and only 2% of infants receive a nutritious meal three times a day. Can you imagine what developmental impact that has on a child? Can you imagine how a mother and a father feel when they cannot feed their child properly?

The money you raise as part of your Quad will go directly to people in Karamoja. With your support, Mercy Corps will train families to set up vegetable gardens and grow nutritious food, teach mothers how to cook healthy meals with locally available food, and set up a community volunteering programme that will help identify undernourished children to be treated at the local clinic.

It will also help us to build better medical facilities for pregnant women and women giving birth. Unfortunately Karamoja is known for having some of highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

Okay, so now I’ve told you the where and the why, let me tell you how easy it is to start fundraising.

Everyone registered for the Quad already has a fundraising page set up on the Quad website. All you need to do is log-in and get going. I’ve just been working on our Team Mercy Corps page (yes, I could have come up with a more original name but I’ve been too busy training!), I’ve added photos, all the information about the race and a little bit about our team and where we are training. Be sure not to be shy about what you are doing, you are undertaking one of the toughest one day endurance races it the country – tell people about it. I have just emailed the link to our page to my entire address book and we’ve already raised £50! Already, this will provide 70 health referral packs to help mothers identify and refer undernourished children. When we raise £137, our funding will be able to support 110 families create sustainable vegetable gardens.

If you want to go even further than emailing your page to your friends, family and colleagues, take a look at the Fundraising Pack which is packed with top tips to make fundraising fun, and very rewarding.

Signing up for the Quad is only the start of your journey, the second step is fundraising for people who most need it, and the third and final part of your journey is getting to that finish line. Thank you for all you are doing to help people in Karamoja.

Next month: more on my training in the hills of Uganda!


Team Profile - ‘The Tubs’

Team Profile - ‘The Tubs’

“The Tubs” start their journey

Kirsty Norris and Elfreda Whitty both work as programme officers for Mary’s Meals, so they’ve seen first-hand the difference that fundraising events like The Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon can make by supporting vital work in the developing world.

The pair have signed up to take on The Quadrathlon this year, and despite time-consuming field trips have already begun training and fundraising with enthusiasm.

Kirsty said: “I’d just come back from Thailand and Burma where I’d spent time with the partner organisations delivering Mary’s Meals to impoverished communities. When I got back and the impact of our programmes was fresh in my mind, I decided it was a perfect time to get in touch with my family and friends to explain why I was taking on this challenge.”

The Tubs (named after the location of the Mary’s Meals Liberia office—Tubmanberg) have activated their team page on Artez, as well as their individual fundraising pages, and training has begun.

In fact, the motivation Kirsty gained from seeing lives improve was enough to inspire her to find a gym to visit in Thailand, where she hit the treadmill and bike daily. Back home, she’s committed to intense spinning classes, early morning swimming, and strengthening sessions at the gym.

Elfreda is currently out in the field in Kenya and promised to squeeze in as much training as she could during her three-week visit. On her return, The Tubs will begin their joint training, which will include hikes with Kirsty’s two-year-old (two stone) toddler Jos on her back.

As the training continues, so will the updates. Kirsty has admitted that the first blog post was really just to introduce her new walking boots, but we’re confident that we’ll hear more about her gruelling efforts in the months to come.

So, if you’ve not sent your first email to let the world know about your fantastic decision to complete The Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon, now is the perfect time. The Tubs recommend sharing your fundraising target, as well as a little information about what certain donation amounts will allow each charity to achieve.

We’ll leave you with a motivational excerpt from Kirsty’s fundraising email — good luck with your own!

“… as always, I am amazed at the impact we are having in these places; children who may never have attended school are coming with the promise of a good meal, nourishing their bodies and minds. Wherever I go to see Mary’s Meals in action, I hear the phrase ‘it makes us happy’. It’s a great feeling to know our work makes children around the world a little happier each day.”

Reach your peak with Mary’s Meals

Reach your peak with Mary’s Meals

Whether you’re dreading the mountainous section of the Quadrathlon, or raring to take on those seven peaks, we have a story that will fuel your footsteps more than any energy bar or sucrose shot.

On a recent visit to Malawi, Mary’s Meals founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was invited to speak with children at a youth club in the southern town of Balaka. Every Saturday, the youngsters – from various schools receiving Mary’s Meals – come together to sing, dance, play games and perform works of charity, and he wanted to find out how a nutritious meal impacted their daily lives.

But they had other ideas in mind: “Will you join us in climbing Chaoni?”

The children had been helping a neighbouring community on a nearby mountain top, and they wanted to know if he might make the two-hour climb with them. How could he refuse?

A week later, he was 3,000 feet high and surrounded by a thousand welcoming villagers, where the village chief and local head teacher presented him with school records. They were alarming: enrolments of more than one hundred pupils in Standard One were dwindling to single figures by Standard Eight. Poverty and hunger were taking their toll, damaging the children’s health and robbing them of an education and a prosperous future.

It was now as clear as the mountain air: the youth club had brought him there to request Mary’s Meals for the community’s children.

Given the nearest road was a two-hour hike below, was it even possible? But the commitment and love of the community, along with their belief in education prompted a determined offer from the villagers, who stated: “we will carry the food to the top.”

Our Malawi team have since met with the community to agree how to deliver and monitor a school feeding programme in the school atop Chaoni. It costs just £12.20 to feed a child for a whole school year, and while Mary’s Meals is currently reaching more than 989,000 children with a daily meal in school, there are many more hungry children waiting.

So when you are doubting your ability to reach those mountaintops, or needing a push to start your training in the great outdoors, remember this: your ascending footsteps will be mirrored by the villagers climbing to the top of Chaoni, day by day, moving ever closer to a life without poverty, through education.

By reaching your peak, you are helping some of the world’s poorest begin their journey out of poverty.

From Kampala To Kindrochit: Part 2

From Kampala To Kindrochit: Part 2

A Mountain To Climb - My Journey To the Quad: Part 2

I literally have a mountain to climb to get ready for the Quadrathlon in July! Like many of you I’m sure, I’m struggling to find time to fit in training around my work and I’m really feeling the pressure with only a few months to go!

Currently my mountain training consists of running up and down the hill to and from work in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. It is still pretty challenging, not least because I have to dodge the ‘boda boda’ which is Kampala’s local taxi motorbike service and whose bikers have little consideration for a ‘muzungu’ (white man) runner in their way.

I’m really looking forward to getting back up north to Karamoja again which is situated in beautiful mountains of Uganda. However, these mountains are quite unlike the usual image one has of Uganda which is green and lush – and are in fact very dusty and very hot. So, very different from the climate we will have for the Quad! The heat means that I will need to train very early in the morning before the sun heats everything up and it gets too hot.

The communities of Karamoja are those who will benefit from the money raised as part of the Quad. They live in a conflict-affected region of north eastern Uganda with some of the worst poverty ratings in the country. Nutrition levels are very low and maternal mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world. Money raised as part of the Quad will not only go towards breaking the cycle of under-nutrition in this region, particularly for children under two years old, but will also help us to build better medical maternity facilities to give expecting mothers the care they need.

Although I’m not as far as I feel I should be with my training for July’s race, it is this end goal that keeps me going – knowing that the more money we raise, the bigger the tangible difference we can make in peoples’ lives. What also keeps me going is my support network – and I would encourage all first-time Quad participants (in fact, any Quad participant!) to surround themselves with positive, encouraging people.

I have my amazing team in Karamoja who train with me and it makes it easier to get out there and run up hills, I also have my very patient wife and children, and of course my Quad partner, Sandy Biggar, who supports our programmes in Uganda from the Mercy Corps office in Edinburgh. At the moment we can’t run or climb together because there is a continental landmass between us, but we encourage each other to get out there and train, and it amuses us to think how different our training is - me in the extreme heat and dust of northern Uganda, and him in the wet and muddy Scottish hills!

I’ll be thinking of you all as I trudge up the hills in Uganda this month. Good luck – we can do this!


Sean Granville-Ross is the Mercy Corps Country Director in Uganda. He has been with Mercy Corps for 12 years. Having first started with Mercy Corps in Kosovo, he has been Country Director in Mongolia and Indonesia and was Regional Programme Director for East Asia. Sean grew up in Kenya and speaks English, Spanish, Kiswahili and Indonesian.

From Kampala To Kindrochit: Part 1

From Kampala To Kindrochit: Part 1

From Kampala to Kindrochit – my journey to the Quad: Part 1

Little did I know what I had signed up for when I said I would take part in the Quadrathlon, but here I am, just like you, thinking about starting my training. Although I’m in the city of Kampala in the east African country of Uganda.

Heading up a team of 160 people, I lead Mercy Corps’ programmes in Uganda which focus on improving poverty and food insecurity in a country that is starting to heal after a generation-long civil war.

Some might say Uganda has perfect training weather – it is a balmy 25 degrees Celsius today. However, I know that before ‘Quad Day’, on the 11 July, we will experience intense humidity and the short rains from April-May which turn Kampala into red muddy streets and pot holes full of water. I will also need to make sure I’m not doing my swim training in Lake Victoria, the third largest lake in the world, during one of Uganda’s formidable thunderstorms!

Uganda is very lush and green, and is one of the most beautiful and friendly countries in Africa but, it is also very poor. There are inequalities in the distribution of income and the treatment of women has contributed to high poverty rates, poor health and disparities in education and opportunity.

Thanks to you and the money you raise for the Quad, we will be able to help more people in this country. In particular, your money will go to the people of Karamoja – a conflict-affected region in north eastern Uganda, and one of poorest regions of the country. 63% of the population there lives on less than $1 day.

Karamoja has some of the worst nutrition and health in the country and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. We will use your money to set up classes for young mothers to learn how to feed their children nutritious meals on limited resources. We will also run classes in vegetable gardening teaching women to set up their own kitchen gardens so their families have food now and for the future. Your support will enable us to help over 2,500 families.

Good luck with your swim training this month and stay tuned for my updates from Uganda in the monthly Quad newsletter.

Knowing that the money fundraised by Quad participants is going to an area of Uganda which is in desperate need, will keep me motivated to climb mountains in the humidity, get out my fold-up kayak to take down the river, ride my bike through rain storms and avoid the crocodiles and hippos of Lake Victoria.

Like you, I’m now off to do my swim training – and you can bet when I climb out of the water, little children will have thought it funny to run off with my towel!


Sean Granville-Ross is the Mercy Corps Country Director in Uganda. He has been with Mercy Corps for 12 years. Having first started with Mercy Corps in Kosovo, he has been Country Director in Mongolia and Indonesia and was Regional Programme Director for East Asia. Sean grew up in Kenya and speaks English, Spanish, Kiswahili and Indonesian.

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