Jo Kirk in front of beautiful scenery

Trekking to change the future through dementia research

Jo, a dedicated Research Network volunteer, took part in a life-changing experience to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Society research. Our research aims to not only find new treatments for dementia, but also improve care for everyone affected by the condition today.

This is not so much an article as a message of celebration and hope.

For eight days last September, it was my pleasure and privilege to work as a team with 30 other fundraisers attempting to hike the little-used and remote Anaschocha trail to Machu Picchu, Peru – a total of 60 miles over five days, climbing to heights of 4,650m. 

The hard work had started several months before with a tough training programme, which in my case included climbing the Yorkshire Peaks, coastal hikes, gorge walking and bouldering, interval training in the gym along with very long dog walks to the delight of our family canine!

Tackling the trek

As for the trek itself, the first two days were spent acclimatising in the high altitude city of Cusco.

The final day was one of relaxation and being ordinary 'tourists' at the stunning world heritage site of the Incas. 

These sentences over-simplify what was in effect a transformational journey for everyone involved: fundraisers, trek guides, medical, campsite and catering support staff.

Along the way, friendship, cooperation and trust was built against a backdrop of breath-taking Andean scenery, injuries sustained and overcome, lungs adjusting to 50 per cent less oxygen, skilled Peruvian guides navigating the group through treacherous landslides and – most significantly – being moved to tears and then to smiles after scaling the highest mountain point. 

Common ground

Because we were all there for the same reason: wishing to honour our loved ones living or having lived with the cruel condition of dementia. 

From our youngest team member, 18 years old and there for his grandma, to the eldest participants in their sixties, the common denominator was hope for the future, in spite of the personal pain.

To that end, together we raised over £115,000.

These are funds to support the phenomenal research work facilitated by the Alzheimer’s Society.

Research Network volunteers

Raising awareness of research

There was an additional perspective for me. As a volunteer from the Research Network, I was able to describe the research work of a number of projects to my trek-mates who were keen to find out more about the charity they were working so hard to raise funds for. 

In turn, I was able to learn much more about the range of situations individuals and families are dealing with, and the ways in which the Society can help.

Another plus: between April and December 2018 the very necessary functions of organising, training and fundraising (pre and post-trek) meant that I was working with the Events team and so getting to know another group of professionals employed by the Society.

A new adventure

Many of us continue to meet and stay in touch following this amazing experience in a truly incredible and welcoming country.

Best of all is the fact that all of the '2018 Alzheimer’s Society Peru Trekkers' are hooked on tough challenge fundraising for our charity, with various events either registered for or being planned.

Be part of something amazing

There are many ways you can get involved and help fight dementia. Find information about our events, fundraising ideas and support, and learn more about our Research Network volunteers.

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Well done Jo. It’s a trek I missed 30 years ago but not now with 50% less oxygen.

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