Arrival in Accra

I made it! After starting my Challenges Worldwide journey in December, making it through the application process, assessment day and pre-departure preparations, I arrived in Accra on Sunday.

The 6.5 hour flight wasn’t as long as I’d expected, but apparently we were very lucky to go direct! My UK counterpart, Bryan, wasn’t so lucky as the flight was fully booked so he came the next day via Dubai and was in the air for +14 hours.

My first thoughts as follows:

  • The host home is pretty awesome; we have a huge living room with an open plan dining room and a big twin bedroom, complete with a fan and mosquito net

  • Mosquito nets are like little forts and, I am told, if you sleep with the fan on mosquitoes are so light the air blows them away

  • Mosquito spray smells disgusting and if you spray your arms first and then your legs you smother yourself in the chemical mist bending down

  • Showers are always cold, and I’m OK with it

  • Water is sold in bags instead of bottles and you bite the corner to open them. They are also crafty little bags that spill at the first opportunity

  • Brushing my teeth with a water bag is an art I will master

  • It’s normal to drink Milo with breakfast (an energy hot chocolate drink)

  • Jallof (rice cooked in stew not water) is a staple with most meals and tastes good with everything

  • Locals eat huge portions of rice and small portions of stew/meat/sauce

  • They eat everything with their ‘SPOON’ (five letters for each finger on their right hand)

  • Everyone uses their mobile phone data for internet, there is no Wi-Fi, and I definitely took it for-granted

  • Trotros (the local buses) are chaos, but they are clearly organised chaos for locals as they just seem to magically understand where they are going

  • The guy that takes the fare is called “mate”

  • Without our in-country team leader (ICTL) counterparts, we would get lost almost immediately, never to be found again

All in all so good so far!

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xo

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Time: 1.58.58

I know I probably sound like a broken record – but a massive THANK YOU to everyone donated in support of my fundraising target for Challenges Worldwide! On Sunday I ran the 13.1 miles in 1.58.58 – keeping to my 9 minute mile target pace and successfully completing the MK half marathon.

The first 7 miles were brutal; I was counting down the mile markers and the only things that kept me entertained through the roads and roundabouts of MK were the abundance of jelly-babies being given out, the Dutch-style windmill at mile 8 once we reached Ouse Valley Park, and my amazing supporters.

Another massive THANK YOU to George, Suzy and Hugo who helped create my playlist, drove me to the race at 7am, calmed me down whilst I panicked for no reason pre-race, cheered me on at the third mile, and got the best seats in the stadium to literally scream at me whilst I completed the final lap of the stadium.

£500 raised for charity and one half-marathon down, I am now the proud owner of the most fabulous cow medal around and just 6 weeks away from flying out to volunteer as a Team Leader in Ghana. Exciting times!

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xo

2 days until the MK half-marathon!

This week I spent a couple of days up in Edinburgh at Challenges Worldwide Team Leader (TL) training and met my TL counterpart, Eva, who I’ll be spending 6 months with from June.

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During the training we learned more about the amazing work Challenges Worldwide do, what we’ll be involved in and how the commercial arm of the charity will continue to support SMEs after we’ve left. Every time I hear one of their staff talk about the work they do, and see how passionate they are, I’m reminded how amazing it is I’ve been given the opportunity to take part.

The first milestone to showing my commitment to the programme is to fundraise for the charity. Thank you to everyone that has donated so far! I am only £45 off my target of £500 and have been training for the MK half-marathon to drum up support. With just 2 days to go until the race, I’d love to hit my target and I can honestly say it’s a worthwhile and sustainable cause if you’d like to donate!

Donate here if you haven’t already: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/soffiabowring

Have a lovely long weekend all!

xo

Soffia – 6961

One week to go until the MK half marathon and I bossed 11 miles last weekend! The more people I speak to, the more I feel I’ve taken training way too seriously, but I am petrified of getting injured so wanted to build up very slowly…I can’t compete with the amazing efforts of those that competed the London Marathon but I assure you the half training is gruelling too!

I managed 9 minute miles despite achy legs from too much trampolining at Bounce on Friday, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up for all 13 next week.

Thank you to everyone that has donated so far and gotten me to +75% of my fundraising target!

If you haven’t donated already, I am raising money for Challenges Worldwide who support start-up businesses in Africa. There is a real problem with businesses being investment ready, and investors finding quality candidates in Africa. This is hindering economic growth across the continent and Challenges Worldwide hope to help +750 businesses by 2018. They will do this in various ways such as by providing a financial platform to better manage accounts, and by placing volunteers that can help with general business practice such as marketing and planning.

Read more on the Challenges Worldwide website and please donate generously to support their work through my JustGiving page here.

Charity bake sale = success!

This week I focused on upping my fundraising game and went hard on the baking. After starting Sunday, by Wednesday I had managed to create homemade chocolate tarts with an Oreo biscuit based and caramel centre, Russian traybake; complete with strawberries, pecans, white chocolate and pineapple, and toffee marshmallow Rice Krispy treats; garnished with caramel sauce and a celebration chocolate. I then cheated and bought some cupcakes…

Special thanks to Paul Howden for donating The Bishop’s famous fudge and an Easter simnel cake – everything went down a treat despite all the free food in the office!

£86 cash + £62 in online donations = a total of £148!! I was hoping for over £75 so to raise almost double that is amazing. The charity bake sale was definitely a success!

Thank you again to everyone who donated, and once the cash is in, I’ll be over half way to my target.

Find out more about why I’m fundraising and keep track of progress here:

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/soffiabowring

xo

Training is under way

Giving myself a 6 week window to train for a half marathon was probably not the brightest idea!

Last weekend I walked the Yorkshire 3 Peaks thinking a long walk would be a good substitute for a run. +25 miles and +13 hours later I had crippled myself so only managed a short run on Thursday during the week.

However, I need to finish the 13 miles on the 1st of May so am still rapidly upping my distance to improve my stamina. Today I managed an 8.5 mile run and have maintained a pace <9mins a mile. Usually I average at 9/10 mins so I’m hoping I can keep this up!

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Please visit my JustGiving page and sponsor the massive effort that is this training! I don’t enjoy running, I usually stick to 3 miles because it’s just enough to keep me fit and I am finding this a huge challenge.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/soffiabowring

Why am I doing this?

In a few months I will be going to Africa as part of an ICS programme to support Challenges Worldwide, a charity that works with start-up businesses who request help from volunteers. With help from ICS, Challenges Worldwide are aiming to grow 750 businesses, improving local economies and helping to fight poverty in developing countries. The money I raise will go towards supporting in-country volunteers and the sustainability of the ICS programme.

xo

The return of the blog.

I have relatively big news that I am now in a position to share – I will soon be packing up, taking a sabbatical from work and moving to Africa for up to 6 months! I am really excited to have been selected to volunteer overseas with Challenges Worldwide on an International Citizen Service (ICS) placement. Exact location TBC before you ask…

ICS works with communities that have specifically requested their help, and also aims to inspire young people in the UK and overseas to become active citizens who are passionate about long term community development.

ICS partner with charities all over the world, but I have chosen to volunteer as a Team Leader for Challenges Worldwide because they send volunteers to start-up businesses looking for financial, marketing and other business support.

The first part of my placement is a challenge to raise £500 towards the work of Challenges Worldwide and their ICS partners. My company, The BGL Group, will then match fund the amount to reach a total of £1000.

The money raised will go towards enabling the overall costs of ICS, ensuring they can to continue to support youth volunteers in Africa, and to send UK volunteers to the developing world to make a lasting difference in disadvantaged communities.

Amongst other things, I’ll be running a half marathon to raise funds, and you can keep track of how I get on here or through my Justgiving page. Although I have been running for a year now, I rarely venture more than 3 miles, so 13 miles is guaranteed to turn my legs to jelly…

Any contribution from you will make a real difference to the lives of people in developing countries, so please dig deep!

Thanks in advance for your support and stay tuned for updates on my journey.

Just Giving: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/soffiabowring

xo

Should probably wrap this up!

So my Holland chapter is completely closed now hence the lack of blogging. Long story short the Dutch business is closing and I have been lucky enough to come out of the closure with an exciting new job opportunity back in the UK!

I met some of the nicest people I have ever come across, explored a number of beautiful Dutch cities and fell in love with Holland. It may have been short, but it was sweet – now onto the next adventure 😊

 

xo

Happy New Year!

  I decided to take the holidays off blogging and have had a very relaxing time back in the UK.

This year Rob (my brother) and I were in charge of the Icelandic Christmas dinner and I am happy to report it was a success! Playing cook I realised that Christmas is definitely where my sweet tooth comes from – sugar browned potatos, sugar roasted carrots and parsnips, homemade toblerone ice cream and more sugar in the fruit salad dressing have definitely contributed to my holiday weight gain. But if you haven’t put on weight then you’ve not eaten enough these past few weeks let’s be honest…

After our Icelandic meal on the 24th I had a traditional 25th and another roast on Boxing Day. It was basically three Christmas meals which was delightful and I am now the proud owner of a pressure cooker (thanks Santa) so am looking forward to making a whole chicken in 20 minutes 👌🏼 I do not want to return any gifts despite only providing a few suggestions – an even bigger success!

For the second year in a row my little brother spoiled the board game surprise. I bought cluedo for my sister in law – he’s been telling her how excited he was to play cluedo for weeks whilst it sat at home ready to wrap for her gift. Massive fail but it was a good game nonetheless!

After Christmas I headed up north to George’s via Rothwell. 5.5 hours of driving later I realised everyone travelled on the 27th last year, it was a bad plan.

Once in Barnsley I was finally able to use Meerkat Movie codes to see Star Wars and the new Hunger Games. I am fully up to date on Jedi-ness and was impressed with the finale of HG (no spoilers so no more details).

I also got to meet George’s mum’s new pup Joey 😁😁 next to the huge Oscar and Maddie he’s just a little baby and my dog love is as strong as ever!

For New Years we decided to stay in so I had some fancy pink wine (Echo Falls…), watched New Years Eve the film and saw the bells at midnight before cracking out the sparklers! It was fabulous and only cost me £11 in booze. Staying in is definitely the new going out…

Two Barnsley matches, a few more board games and beers later I’m back in Ptown searching for houses! Long story short Grandma Soff is returning to the UK so I’m undecided how much longer I’ll keep this up but I’ll try for a bit longer…

xo