BALANCE OF LIFE – the highlights and lowlights of 2017
Where science meets culture
Leading the BES Amazon Science Expedition over July and August, I returned to Manu National Park in Peru with a team of over 60 explorers, scientists, adventure leaders and medics to continue science research projects I started in 2015. These projects looked at comparing the biodiversity of secondary and primary rainforest ecosystems focusing on specific flora and fauna on the edge of the park to understand the health and wealth of both ecosystems. Focusing on key species in the food chain within this conservation area the expedition set up camera traps, completed data collection surveys on specific species, geomorphology and riverine studies in an area that is not without its cultural conflicts as well as conflicts of use.
The real highlight of the expedition was setting up an ‘expo’ within the local community of Salvacion on the opposite side of the Madre de Dios River which I did as part of the advance party team. I designed the expo as an opportunity to share the findings of the expedition and the wealth of the rainforest on the doorstep of the community that was not based on the short term riches of logging. Linked to the CREES Foundation, we worked within the community on projects such as creating biogardens and agroforestry areas. The expo came at the end of the expedition and shared our knowledge and understanding of the precious resource across the river to all ages within the community and prompted plenty of discussion, furthering understanding of the issues between local communities and the rainforest ecosystem.
Diversity of work
I am privileged to have a job that utilises my experience in event management, leadership training and business consultancy, where no two days are the same. This year was no exception, having taken the lead in setting up Garlands Corporate for the owners of Mythe Farm, we focused this year on large scale corporate events. Designing and delivering events for companies with up to 600 attendees. The highlight was managing a corporate festival style event for a large online gaming company that included fun games and activities throughout the weekend, delicious food, live entertainment and over 100 glamping and pampering tents!
I spent a wonderful day with the Heeley and Meersbrook Community Group in Sheffield discussing their current ideas for the park and Ruskin museum that they had recently taken from the council to manage for the benefit of the community. The highlight for me was the appreciation of local community assets and the importance for keeping them within the community.
Leishmaniasis – down to earth with a bump
My low point of 2017 was bringing back form the Amazon something unexpected that put me into hospital for five weeks and which meant I had to miss the London CC02. It started as a small bump but soon materialised into something more sinister; I had contracted the Leishmania parasite whilst in the jungle which required a course of pretty harsh treatment that often felt worse than the effects of the parasite itself.
I was really looking forward to meeting many old friends and new at what proved to be another successful campfire. Now fully recovered, I am really looking forward to engaging more of the same conventions in 2018!
Hope for 2018
I have taken the lead with a colleague of mine in setting up a new charity that specifically delivers programmes for mental health sufferers from all uniformed services across the UK and is called Mind, Body and Spirit. The charity delivers a programme in collaboration with the existing support services and other charitable organisations such as Combat Stress. It will focus on the needs and aspirations of programme participants and includes an overseas project that will challenge them mentally, physically and emotionally. The overall programme objectives are to enable participants to become an engaging member of their community, taking on challenges that will increase self-esteem, confidence in themselves, inspire others and create opportunities for personal growth.
The first pilot programme will be for the Derbyshire region and include an overseas project to Namibia. Participants will train local people to become first responders in remote communities in the northern regions of Namibia, returning as first responder trainers and as first responders themselves back into their communities in the UK.
My life explores four simple P’s and all that it brings in trying to understand where I fit in a complex and often confusing world; People, places, play and passion. It seems 2017 did not disappoint!