A Brighton woman is gearing up for the challenge of a lifetime as she prepares for a six-day trek of the Sahara Desert.
Jodi Harford, fundraising manager at national charity Hft, will join an eight-strong team to raise money for the learning disability cause.
The group of intrepid explorers hope to raise £16,000 and will brave sandstorms, intense heat, freezing nights, and some of the world’s tallest sand dunes.
Included in the group is someone supported by the charity, operations and fundraising staff, and their friends and family.
Jodi will face additional challenges as she lives with fibromyalgia and Ehlers Danlos – a joint hypermobility syndrome.
She is keen not to let the chronic pain and fatigue conditions stop her, and will be walking up to eight hours a day across the largest hot desert in the world.
Trekkers were inspired by Mark Wagner, 52, a Hft service user in Walberton, Sussex.
In 2017, along with a friend, he became one of the first two people with learning disabilities to complete a fundraising trek in Iceland.
Since then, Mark has been keen to plan his next adventure and made the decision to swap snow for sand.
“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,” Jodi said.
“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.”
The team will set off from the village of M’Hamid, at the southernmost part of the desert, on November 6.
Funds raised by the challenge will go towards new Hft projects and services across the country, like the transformation of a community allotment greenhouse at the service where Mark lives.
Proceeds will also 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.
Even though the team are busy with strict training for the trek, they have also been taking part in other fundraising activities – from raising money at a community music festival and holding a fashion show, to one trekker, Christine, shaving off her hair.
The team have raised nearly £10,000 on their JustGiving page.
Hft currently supports more than 2,500 people across the country with learning disabilities. Support includes assisting people with learning disabilities to live independently in their own homes, providing employment services.
The charity also helps these people to pursue hobbies, make new friends, and get involved in their local communities.
The team’s fundraising page can be found here.