FUW's 'Buy The Welsh One' campaign reaches the Sahara
That's because the union's Anglesey county branch was a sponsor of Sian Pierce Roberts, of Cefn Arthen, Brynsiencyn, who has just returned from a seven-day, 115km camel trek through the Sahara where she proudly wore the FUW's "Buy The Welsh One" campaign tee-shirt.
Her father Gwyn and mother Nerys are FUW members and Nerys runs the “Pobty’r Bryn” award-winning bakery renowned for its Bara Brith, Taffi Triog (treacle toffee), oat cakes and shortbread.
Sian, who recently started working as a midwife after completing a BA course in midwifery at Bangor University, took part in the sponsored Sahara Trek to raise money for SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society).
"Since working as a midwife, I have become familiar with the SANDS charity who do a wonderful job providing support for parents, families and friends who have lost a baby," she said. "The charity supports further research that endeavours to reduce these numbers.
"Whilst I’m still young and healthy, I decided that I wanted to help the charity and agreed to participate in the ‘trek’ through the Sahara desert. It was a memorable experience, to say the least.
"I had to raise a minimum sponsorship of £2,250 towards the trip, so I decided to organise events such as concerts, bag packing in supermarkets and barbecues. I wanted to raise money through events where the public would gain something back.
"Throughout the 18 months of fund-raising, I received great support from a variety of people, such as local businesses, friends and family and I’m extremely grateful to the FUW for sponsoring me."
In her spare time, Sian enjoys taking part in young farmers' competitions and is the current chairman of the YFC movement in Anglesey. "Bodedern YFC organised a party and Rhosybol YFC organised a pancake night with the proceeds going towards sponsoring the trip, so I am extremely grateful to them all for the support.
"Before setting off I didn’t know anyone on the trip, so I met 20 people for the first time at Heathrow airport on the morning of March 8. We all came from different backgrounds, jobs and parts of the UK but all of us had one thing in common - we were all there to raise money for a charity close to our hearts.
"Within days we all became firm friends as we were with each other 24 hours a day for nine days, and we’d support and encourage each other throughout the journey. I organised the trip through a London company called Skyline, so as well as the 21 people we also had three team leaders, three men who would be in charge of the camels, two chefs and one doctor - so we were in safe hands!
"We flew from Heathrow to Casablanca, which is at the top of Morocco, then an hour's flight from Casablanca to Ouazazate, and a five-hour bus ride to the desert, where we met seven camels who were also venturing on the journey to carry our water, bags, food packages and the doctor’s package.
"We were about to walk for seven days, with two travelling days either side. From day to day, we got up by 6am, had breakfast and then start walking. We walked for about four to five hours in the morning and two to three hours in the afternoon - apart from one day, when we got a little bit lost, so we walked for 11 hours!
"It's safe to say we definitely completed the 100km but the leader thought it was close to 115km by the end of the trip. The trip varied on a daily basis. The sand piles got bigger and bigger the further we got into the desert, and if we were walking on a flat piece, the ground got dusty, with small and large stones under foot.
"There were a few things that would complicate your day and they affected everyone in different ways. One thing I noticed was that we take simple things like clean water, showers and electricity for granted. I've never used so many baby wipes and dry shampoo!
"It was approximately 30 degrees and the temperature would drop down to freezing during the night. So we had to wrap up warm and make sure that we had a good sleeping bag! I did expect it to be boiling hot but, to be honest, it was not too bad as there was a nice breeze whilst we were walking.
"But one of the things I did not expect was the rain - and, sure enough, one night we had heavy rain - and we were in bed by 8pm! The leader informed us the next day, of all the years he has worked in the desert, only once has he experienced rain in the Sahara!
"We had been advised prior to the start of the trip to bring ski glasses with us, in the event of a sandstorm. And sure enough, I experienced three storms whilst I was in the Sahara and they were very vigorous!
"It was extremely difficult to walk through these sandstorms as we could only see two feet in front of us! Although I did not want a storm and rain, I'm glad I’ve had these experiences to add to the adventures of the trip.
"The chefs and the camel crew would put two tents up every night - one to cook in and one to eat in - and they would always prepare a feast for us.
"In the mornings, if we were lucky, we had bread and porridge for breakfast, salad and fruit for lunch and a three-course meal that included soup, vegetables, meat and fruit for dinner. The food was wonderful and it was miraculous what the crew could achieve in such a small tent.
"The trip is an experience to remember. I've had the privilege of seeing a foreign country, meeting people from different backgrounds and, most importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to raise money for a great charity!
"I'd like to thank everyone for all their support, and with their help I've raised £3,400 for SANDS."
Sian will be telling the story of her fund-raising Sahara trek when she attends FUW Anglesey's annual general meeting on Thursday June 26 (7.30pm) at Tafarn-y-Rhos, Rhostrewfa, as a guest speaker.
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