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50 hill challenge: where we're going

25 February 2015

Helena Herklots 50 hill challengeAs part of our 50th Anniversary year Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, will be taking on a personal challenge to climb 50 hills, one for each of our 50 years.  

Heléna explains how the challenge is about more than raising funds and awareness – it’s an opportunity to walk alongside carers and share stories about where we are now and where we’re heading together:

Quote 1

In the long run-up to Carers UK’s 50th Anniversary, I’d been thinking hard about what my personal contribution could be as Chief Executive. The more I learned about the history of the carers movement, and the more I discovered about the individuals and groups behind its development, the more inspired I became at the prospect of celebrating this remarkable story.

As a movement we’ve benefited from monumental contributions from some incredible individuals who brought caring out of the shadows and into the public domain. As I read the history books and scanned through the photo archive, their courage and determination leapt off the page.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Marjorie, a cousin of our founder, the Reverend Mary Webster. As she flicked through family photos and press cuttings and told me more about what her cousin was like, the history really started to come alive for me. As Mary’s character was fleshed out in that living room, her story became merged with the story of all of the other single women looking after their parents at the time, and beyond that, the millions of people who would look after loved ones in the future.

What’s impressed me most about Mary and other towering figures in the movement she started, is her ability to open up and bring others with her, rather than fighting alone. Rather than being a story about a few impressive individuals, the story of the carers movement is about carers coming together for support and to campaign for change, beginning with that first meeting Mary organised at The House of Commons. 

So as I considered what my personal contribution was going to be for the 50th Anniversary of this movement of carers, it became clear that it not only had to involve whatever commitment and determination I could muster, it also had to be something that could bring people together.

That’s the backdrop to my idea of climbing 50 hills in 2015, starting with a hike on New Year’s Day. While I do enjoy a good walk, 50 hills in a year will certainly require some determination and perhaps a degree of courage.

Sometimes walking alone can be great, giving us time and space to reflect and gather our thoughts – but for me walking and conversation go hand in hand. Moreover, since the carers movement is all about bringing people together, a solo challenge just doesn’t seem fit. So I’m really hoping carers will join me for part of the journey, so we can talk together and enjoy working towards a shared goal.

A series of hills and valleys carries an echo of what it’s like to care for someone. There are times when it’s phenomenally hard work, like a steep climb, or when you can feel on your own, like in a deserted valley. For most of us, there are also moments at the peak, when we get a sense of our accomplishment or appreciate a wider perspective – for caring does express the very best of what it is to be human.

It may be that it’s been many years since your last hill climb, and even if you wanted to join me on a walk, your caring responsibilities or your own health prevent you from taking part. If that’s the case for you, stay with us – we’re determined to use our 50th Anniversary year to develop support, improve understanding and bring about the changes required to ensure no one has to care alone.

But if you are willing and able to join me in climbing one of the 50 hills or doing part of that journey together, I’d love to have you alongside me.Quote 2

  • There are loads of ways you can get involved, from joining Heléna on a walk to joining in your local area – visit our 50th Anniversary microsite for more information and to sign up.
  • On Wednesday 25 February Heléna was joined by Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement & Mental Health, and members of Carers Scotland's Advisory committee to climb Calton Hill. Click here to read the news story.
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