Tag Archives: charity

Scotland; Are you ready?! (Week 3)

(Week ending 7th Feb 2020)

We need to start this post off with a massive thank you to everyone who has donated so far; the total hit £1,000 and beyond! Thank you, genuinely, it means so much to the whole team. For those who haven’t yet donated, here’s the link if you feel like helping the team and charities out; https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels

George has had a heavy week of training this week. We all know what the weather has been like so as you can imagine the trail running has been hard work. There was so much mud and water around that it was hard to keep some sort of sanity whilst she was slipping all over the place! But, for George, this is also her commute to work and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Combining these runs with an hour’s warm up on the cross trainer (with the bungee attached) has made a big impact on her mental strength and resilience. The runs home from work are still in the dark and last week George was followed by, presumably, some sort of wild animal. They normally run away and she is more than used to seeing eyes in the hedgerows and trees however this one followed her all the way through the woods! Needless to say she hasn’t taken that route home since…

There is a big challenge ahead for the team, a weekend away in Scotland to learn Nordic skiing. They will spend two days learning basics and then going out in to a forested area to practise. A combination of nerves and excitement is filtering through the team and Alison has had all her gear out on the spare bed for two weeks, not just out of excitement but her biggest concern is how she is going to fit it all in her suitcase?! An even bigger part of the weekend ahead is, for Alison, hoping she can keep up with the rest of the team. She has only ever been skiing once in her life and that was when she was 11, a long time ago! It’s also the first time she has been away and not taken any makeup with her, it’s all about being outside of your comfort zone and breaking new boundaries…!

Alison isn’t the only one who is hoping she can keep up with the rest of the team; Beci is nervous and excited about the weekend ahead although it wasn’t off to the best of starts as she has left her walking boots in her car in Wales and didn’t notice until she was nearly at the airport…! It is difficult for all the team to leave family, friends and pets when they go on these sort of training events but it is just a reminder of the dedication and sacrifices the team are making for this expedition. Beci has made sure the house was clean and tidy as she is leaving her poor husband in charge but an added extra that is weighing heavy on her mind is that she is going to miss her daughters 6th birthday. She is heartbroken to be away but she is hoping that they can get away with celebrating her birthday later in the week and her daughter will never know the difference?! We will keep our fingers crossed for you Beci!

Above the physical and mental battles of this challenge is the emotional battle. Beci feels an overwhelming guilt as a Mum to ensure her children always come first whilst trying to steal time away to achieve this goal. But she knows this will make her children so proud and remind them that they can do anything they want to in life. It means that Sunday will be a combination of holding back the tears not being with her daughter on her special day but also aching in places she didn’t even know she had…!

If you recall, Nikki had taken a huge step back last week after cutting her left leg open, which has now been affectionately named as her ‘shark bite’. After many doctors & nurses appointments it was agreed that she could go to Scotland and at least give skiing a try. She booked on light duties at work to permit her to do this but she is extremely nervous about the injury and does not want to stop the healing process. So instead she started working on sponsorship packages ready for the new website and after spending 90 minutes in Decathlon getting everything she needed her excitement reached top levels!

Rebecca spent the weekend with her Mum which was really lovely for her but she found it tough to see her feeling so lonely. If you remember, as mentioned in a previous blog, Rebecca sadly lost her step-dad in December. Her brother, sister in law and nephew came over from Singapore which was really great for her and her mum; she doesn’t get to see them that often with them living so far away and she misses them a lot. It’s always important to have family and friends that you can talk to and rely on in dark and difficult times; never be afraid to ask for help or support.

After a good long walk on Monday, 15km to be precise, in lots of mud and a few very busy days at work it’s finally time for Rebecca to get excited about the Scotland weekend ahead. Rebecca is also not a skier and since her serious injury to her knee back when she played rugby she has stayed away from any risky activity. As you can imagine skiing is pretty risky for her and the nerves are setting in for the training ahead; given that she ruptured 3 ligaments and no longer has a ACL she is unsure how her body will hold up. But as ever Rebecca has a strong determination to give it a go and see how far she can push herself, mentally and physically.

It’s been a slightly different week for Nakita; she is still in a bit of a whirlwind, having reached a point where she knows her relationship ending was the best thing but the way it ended is still painful and hard for her to take. The biggest issue is that it takes her away from what she loves, her energy levels are low and she is finding it hard to focus. As team leader and founder of the AFA she finds it hard to let go of the helm but she has been trusting the team to deal with organising events and meetings and they are of course more than capable of this. It just means that Nakita feels guilty for not being able to put 100% in, she likes to pull her weight and when she doesn’t it plays on her mind.

For Nakita being back at the station with her watch has helped her more than you can imagine, they are all incredibly supportive and it reminds her that they really aren’t just her work colleagues, they are her other family. Unless you are or have ever been a firefighter it is hard to understand the bonds that are built within the watch and this week when out for a drink they started talking about Grenfell, an evening they will never forget.

Red watch were in attendance on the night of the fire and what they endured was truly incomprehensible. Nakita was on blue watch at the time and attended the night after, recovering those that sadly didn’t make it.

Ricky, a firefighter on her watch had written a poem at the time of Grenfell which really touched Nakita. Little did they know she had also written her own but never shared it. It is only now that she feels she can share the poem she had written back then, all about the experience and emotions from that fateful night. I have pasted a copy of the poem to the left for you to read.

For me writing this, it is hard to imagine what this must have been like, it is best coming straight from Nakita on this; “Climbing those stairs again and again, where the outcome would not be any different, trying to imagine what our firefighters, and all those involved went through. But we would never know and all our experiences would be different, still traumatic, but different.”

After showing their support her watch encouraged her to share the poem with others, so that night that is what Nakita did on social media. She wanted to highlight part of the ‘why’ behind the AFA team and the expedition but she was also nervous of any negative response to this going out. Perhaps people would not understand what or why she had written the poem, however the response has been hugely positive. This is an expression of feelings and emotions from someone who was there and as Nakita says, each and everyone involved in that night will have different experiences and different feelings. It is only from sharing, talking and expressing our inner thoughts and feelings that we can start to try and process something like this. It is a hard subject to write and talk about, it conjures a lot of emotion even for those not directly related to it. Thank you for understanding and reading the poem.

One thing that the team are conscious of is spreading the word and inspiring women to be anything they want to be. Some of the team went on a school visit about mental fitness withHarlequin Foundation, it was a real eye opener on how to approach mental fitness with children who had a hugely positive response which was great to see. Although interestingly, when the children were asked what job they thought the AFA team did, not one of them guessed firefighter and when they were told, there was a combination of disbelieve and awe. It really reinforced for the team that an element of what they were doing would help get the word out there that women can be firefighters too, and with these guys as hugely positive role models it makes me think we will see lots more female firefighters in the future.

Some of you might remember the other week when Nikki ended up liaising with ‘We Are The City’ and this week Nakita found out that the AFA team have nominated her as a ‘Rising Star’. She is truly humbled and moved by this nomination; take a look at their website for previous winners and learn all about the 2020 process; https://risingstars.wearethecity.com/

This was also the week I was announced as Official Blogger for the AFA Team! Genuinely so excited and absolutely love hearing and writing all about what these guys get up to. I am in total awe of their determination and dedication to the cause and I can’t wait to see where the next few years take us. The drive to show and inspire women that we are strong together and that we can be anything we want to be makes me feel so proud to be a part of this team.

Tune in next week to find out how the Scotland trip went; I mean skiing, walking and a beer or two, what’s not to love?!

Written by Elissa

Keep Calm and Carry On Training! (Week 2)

(Week ending 31st Jan 2020)

This week has been one of those weeks for the team. You know the ones, where nothing really goes to plan, you wish you could get up and start the day again and you end up hardly achieving anything on your to-do list?! Yes; one of those weeks…

Across the AFA team they have had their fair share of set backs this week, those typical highs and lows we all get in life. But they’ve kept their heads up and carried on, kept fighting and more importantly kept training!

Nikki took a massive physical step back this week when she sliced her leg open whilst teaching a spinning class…! She ended up needing 13 stitches and having to rest up for the rest of the week. We won’t be sharing the photos on here, although they are on her social media if you really want to check it out! The only word that comes to mind is OUCH! On the flip side this did give her more time to sit down and catch up on all things computer related which lead to her liaising with ‘We Are City’ . They are the ‘leading women’s website for careers, awards, women in tech, networking, events and information’ and they’ve done an article on the team. Check it out here; https://wearethecity.com/inspirational-female-firefighters-looking-for-sponsors-to-help-achieve-their-antarctic-challenge/

On top of that she also tweeted Chelsea’s MP and about the team and their expedition and got an immediate response with an added extra, he wants to come and visit their fire station to meet her and her brigade!

Nakita’s week didn’t quite go how she had planned either; first off there was an incident at the gym when she was sworn at by another gym member for using a certain piece of equipment…go figure?! It might not sound like much but when the gym is your safe place and somewhere you enjoy going, any negative feelings and emotions that manage to seep in start to break that safe feeling down. It triggered serious anxiety about being able to go back in, with the constant worry about bumping in to the same people again.

On top of that her relationship ended, over the phone, which came as quite a surprise to her. It churned up all sorts of emotions and made her feel that she couldn’t give 100% to the team this week and felt like everything got away from her. For anyone reading this, most of us will know how it feels for a relationship to come to an end. It’s difficult, regardless of who ends the relationship, why or how they do it, nothing makes the impact any easier. When it comes out of the blue it’s hard to keep your emotions in check and even harder to focus. You really need to take time to work through the stages of anger, upset, acceptance and try and carry on. That might be easier said than done but remember that there are always people who have been there, always people you can talk to. See what I mean about having one of those weeks?

But the meetings kept coming and some of the team met up with the Harlequin Foundation’ to talk about their future together. If you remember, this is one of the charities the team will be supporting from any donations they get over the coming years. The Harlequins Foundation was set up in 2015 and their goal is all about ‘Building Brighter Futures’ with the aim to ‘combine the power of sport with the unique spirit, expertise and experience of Harlequins to create opportunities for people within our local communities and, as we grow, beyond.’ There will be more to come as the team continue to work together over the years.

For Alison and Georgina it was all about training this week; as well as weights, cardio, walking and circuit training they changed things up a bit and used resistance bands to simulate dragging the sleds they will have to pull in the Antarctic, and boy could they feel the difference! Over the next few months they will up the resistance to make sure they are fully ready for the big expedition.

Georgina even managed to acquire 18 tyres from Assembly Member Julie Morgan. After spending two days scrubbing and cleaning them so they could go in the car the next step is to prep them for dragging them along the beaches. George and Alison’s husband, Mark, have then been adapting the tyres, attaching 3 together for each team member. Alison was also able to collect a lot of carabiners destined for the bin but recycled them to join the tyres together.

And yes, you did read that correctly, raining will include pulling the tyres with rope across beaches and other terrain; so if you happen to see any of the team on a beach near you give them a cheer!

With Fire Brigade Union meetings taking up two days of Beci’s week and her daughter badly spraining her wrist it means that the rest of the week was taken up by circuit and triathlon training; and just like that the week was over. See what I mean about there not being enough days in the week for these guys to get everything done?!

Remember the school presentations we talked about? Well the first one was this week with over 420 children totally captivated by the talk and had some great feedback too. Here is a picture of George mid flow at one the her presentations. The bears by Elisabeth Sews went down a treat too so hopefully they will raise some good funds for charity.

With everything that is going on including the day job, training and emails George was all about taking mental down down at the end of the week. We are talking about a social media black out. If you have never tried it I advise that you do; there is something quite liberating about it, not being connected to the world through the device that is constantly glued to your hand. George got out there with the dogs and went on a walk, no mobile phone, no social media, just her own mind and own thoughts. There is no better way to help your mental health than to take a break from social media sometimes, it is good for the mind.

The big news coming up is that the team are prepping this week for their big weekend away to Scotland in February. It will be the first time in a while the whole team has been together and more importantly they will be learning all about ski-ing, a skill they need to conquer for 2023!

Written by Elissa.

Meet Team WAFA.

For our final introduction post we meet our 3 firefighters who make up Team WAFA (Wales Antarctic Fire Angels) led by Co-founder of the Antarctic Fire Angels, Georgina Gilbert;

Georgina Gilbert

Georgina has been a firefighter for 20 years and currently serves with South Wales Fire and Rescue service. She is an ambassador for gender equality and has an ambition to see more women striving to do whatever job they want to do in life; always ensuring she is visible as a role model for young women wanting to embark on a career that doesn’t fit society’s stereotypes.

Everyone who knows her has been asking why she wants to do this challenge, why Antarctica? Her response is simple “we work in extreme environments, my job is not normal; so to highlight the need for greater mental health awareness and smashing gender stereotyping, what better than to push ourselves to the extreme to prove our point.” She wants the expedition to be an entirely honest fly on the wall log of their mental health throughout and you’ll be able to get all of those updates right here.

Georgina loves competing at high level and qualified to represent Great Britain’s Triathlon Team; she enjoys scaling mountains such as Elbrus and Kilimanjaro and is also head spokesperson for the ‘HeForShe’ campaign working towards gender equality for all. She has also recently been nominated for ‘Most Influential LGBT and individual in the Fire Service’ by Excellence in Fire and Emergency.

Her role model growing up was Wonder Woman and she never leaves the house without a Lego miniature in her pocket! It’s safe to say she has a powerful voice that has already helped support so many people and with even more to come from this future expedition.

Alison Kibblewhite

Alison is from Cardiff and went in to the banking industry when she left school; she always knew she wanted to do something a little bit more exciting and when her brother came home with an application form to be a firefighter she applied to!

In January 1995 she joined the South Glamorgan Fire Service and was the first full time female firefighter. Since then she has risen from rank of Firefighter to Area Commander, Head of Operations for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Since the age of 11 she has always been keen on fitness and has run all distances from 100 metres to marathons. She hopes to complete her first ultra-marathon in 2020 as well as training for the Fire Angels expedition.

She is married and has a daughter, stepdaughter and stepson who is following in her footsteps. She is an extremely proud grandmother and of her seven grandchildren she is hopeful that one will join the next generation of firefighters. Alison is taking on this challenge to inspire her family to show that you can achieve anything that you dream of whilst testing her own personal, mental and physical boundaries.

Her claim to fame is a brief appearance on Strictly Come Dancing in 2018 with Green Watch Cardiff Central and is currently taking ballroom dance lessons with her husband in case she ever gets the chance to take part for real…!

Beci Newton

Beci became a firefighter in 2007 with South Wales Fire and Rescue and is currently Watch Manager in Caerphilly; however the path to her current position wasn’t easy.

She suffered Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) in a troubled childhood and teenage years that left her with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) which she deals with until this day. As a teenager she found and joined the Young Firefighters (Fire Cadets) where she found the support and help to get through her traumatic experiences.

She lives with her husband, son and daughter and with their Boarder Collie who have all sadly suffered due to her CPTSD; but with love, support and outstanding mental health care they are moving forwards to ensure they are living a happy and healthy life together. She can’t stress enough how grateful she is for her ‘long suffering’ husband.

As well as being a full time working mother of two, she is a local community councillor and a committee member of Caerphilly RFC. If and when she has spare time she likes to train with Caerphilly Triers, watch rugby and listen to music.

Beci was invited to be part of the AFA challenge and instantly fell in love with the idea. The prospect of being an even bigger role model to her children and inspiring them to be more and do more meant she had to say yes! This will undoubtedly be a huge personal challenge for her and will help to raise awareness of mental health and empower people along the way. Her 3 main goals for the expedition are; don’t die, don’t lose a body part and attempt to get a selfie with a penguin…I think the rest of the team might just strive for those too!

Now the introductions are done we will start to follow our 6 firefighters week by week, catching up with all the events and training they are doing, how they are feeling about the expedition and any exciting news they have to share.

Don’t forget the AFA are seeking sponsorship to support with training, equipment, nutrition, technology and specialist technical support. But more importantly to help raise funds for their nominated charities. If you want to give, as much or as little as you can, please click on this link; https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels

Written by Elissa.

Meet Team LAFA.

Welcome back! As promised in this post we find out all about the first 3 firefighters who form one half of our dynamic team; Antarctic Fire Angels. First up, team LAFA (London Antarctic Fire Angels) led by Nakita Ross;

Nakita Ross

Nakita is the Founder of Antarctic Fire Angels and Team Leader for LAFA. She is 33 years old and Leading Firefighter at Technical Rescue Station in Battersea.

She spent her teenage years as an Air Cadet until she joined the London Fire Brigade at the age of 20. Since then she has gone on to take leading roles at two major joint agency national disaster exercises and has become London’s first female Urban Search and Rescue instructor.

As mentioned in the first blog, she delivers practical sessions at the annual Women in the Fire Service National Training Event, which is where she first met Georgina, team leader of WAFA. (All will be revealed in the next post…!).

In February 2019 Nakita joined Battersea Red Watch and was given her spirit animal of an artic fox, ironic really as this was long before she knew just how accurate that would be! Outside of the brigade she competes in Brazilian Jujitsu which focuses her drive to win, determination and flare. She isn’t one to shy away from a challenge and is likely to take on anyone bigger than her in a wrestling match, and win!

Over her 13 year career Nakita has attended many challenging incidents, none more so than the disaster of the Croydon tram crash and the horrendous high rise fire at Grenfell Tower.

The expedition is something Nakita feels passionately about and it is hugely important to her. She wants to show women that they can achieve any challenge they want to in life including overcoming PTSD. “I think it’s important to recognise there is a stigma attached to mental health in society and it desperately needs to be tackled. I’m also hoping to show full disclosure of the problems we will face out on the ice and that a cool head can make all the difference when faced with adversity”.

Nikki Upton

Nikki knew from the moment she met a female firefighter at a London Brigade open day that this was the job she wanted to do and in 2009 she did just that!

She is also a qualified Level 3 personal trainer and uses this to help people recognise their true potential. Nikki is a great believer that exercise is a huge benefit and attributes her own mental health to a positive attitude towards nutrition and activity as well as maintaining a good life balance.

Based in Chelsea Nikki was at the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 within 30 minutes of the blaze starting. She is extremely proud of the work her and her colleagues did that night.

Along with her day job and her P.T she loves to inspire women to push themselves and reach their goals. She recently travelled to Thailand to Tajikistan to teach rope rescue to women wanting to become the first female rescue responders. Nikki was so inspired and in awe of their determination she hopes to return to continue and help with the steps being taken by their Government towards a more equal society.

Nikki has a drive to complete and win challenges, whether that involves a 10k swim, 75 mile bike ride or a boxing fight in front of 1200 people! This next expedition will be her biggest challenge to date and what a way to show women what you can achieve when you put your mind to it. Even if one woman is inspired by this journey Nikki is happy to go 3 months without twiglets…!

Rebecca Rowe

Rebecca has an impressive sporting history; having played in the Rugby World Cup and Six Nations for Wales; rowed for Great Britain at World and European Championships winning a bronze medal and swimming the English Channel as part of a female relay team setting a new British record at the time!

In November 2017 her sporting career was cut short due to a multiple ligament rupture in her knee after playing a game for Harlequins.

She was wheelchair bound for months, battled depression, society identity and had to come to terms with not achieving her childhood dream to become an Olympian.

At the age of 37 she became a firefighter, fulfilling a lifelong ambition after leaving her previous job as a PE teacher. Changing her career so late in life was a huge risk but her guts and determination to persevere means it has been the best decision she ever could have made.

Her mini sausage dog, George, will be a key part of her support team and motivational coach! Rebecca is super excited about getting stuck into this challenge and is passionate about being an example for other women and girls who want to push boundaries and challenge themselves in life.

Next up; an introduction to team WAFA (Wales Antarctic Fire Angels) led by Georgina Gilbert, co-founder of the Antarctic Fire Angels!

Written by Elissa.

Antarctic Fire Angels; Who are they?

Hi and welcome to the Antarctic Fire Angels Blog!

If you want to find out more about these inspirational women you are in the right place! Together they are a force to be reckoned with; inspiring the next generation, pushing all out girl power to the limits, squashing stereotypes and tackling mental health head on!

The Antarctic Fire Angels are six firefighters from London Fire Brigade and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service; Founder of Antarctic Fire Angels and Team Leader Nakita Ross, Co-founder Georgina Gilbert, Nikki Upton, Alison Kibblewhite, Rebecca Rowe and Beci Newton. Together they have over 100 years’ experience and service in the fire brigade and have decided to take on the mammoth and gruelling challenge of being the first all-female emergency service team to cross the Antarctic!

In 2023 they are planning to take a route never done before by an all-female team which will cover 1900km from Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf. That means they will be covering around 27km every single day in temperatures as low as -50 and all in around 70 days! It will be a huge undertaking where their nerves of steel, grit and determination will be pushed to the max.

This blog will introduce you to the team and their own reasons for being part of this dynamic and empowering group taking on this challenge together.

It all started at a WFS (Women in the Fire Service UK) event in 2019. The previous year Nakita gave an Urban Search and Rescue workshop which Georgina had signed up to; this is where the two met and instantly became friends. Fast forward to 2019 and the keynote speaker was Sophie Montague, adventurer and record holder for Ice Maiden who was also part of the first female team to ski across the Antarctic continent. Both in attendance it ignited a fire within Nakita and Georgina who were so inspired that they decided to start planning their own Antarctic challenge!

With huge support from family and friends, along with all firefighters in their brigades they start their training this year. They will take on a huge variety of different events and expeditions to ensure they are as ready as they can be when it comes to the real thing whilst still keeping up with their day jobs! Training consists of a Cross Country skiing course, mountain navigation, crevasse rescue, polar expedition training and entering events as a team like the Blue Light Stair Run in May this year.

We all have our own struggles in life, our own stories to share. We all have demons that push us to our limits, push us to take on challenges and conquer things that have never been done before. These six inspirational firefighters are no different; they all have their own moving and empowering stories to share, how they are dealing with mental health and how some have overcome huge life events to be where they are today. Over the coming months we will delve into those journeys so far and get an insight in to how they are using this challenge to support each other and more importantly spread the word. This is about women empowering women in a positive way whilst raising awareness of mental health and pushing towards a change in boundaries set by society.

The expedition will be funded by donations to total £500,000, but the team also want to raise money for the charities they are supporting along the way;
The Fire Fighters Charity – https://www.firefighterscharity.org.uk/
The Fawcett Society – https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/
Harlequins Foundation – https://www.harlequins.foundation/

If you feel inspired by what this team plan to do and why they plan to do it and want to support them then please check out the website below;

Don’t forget to check back for our weekly updates with all the news and events our Fire Angels are taking on over the coming months and years to get themselves ready for their big adventure! Meet the team and learn more about the charities they want to raise money for and the companies who are sponsoring them.

This adventure will surely go down in history so jump on board and come for the ride as we follow every step with this epic team!

Next up; an introduction to the team starting with the 3 firefighters from London led by Team Leader and founder of the Antarctic Fire Angels, Nakita Ross.

Written by Elissa.