Tag Archives: harlequinsfoundation

International Women’s Day. (Week 7)

Week ending 8th March 2020

Team LAFA
You might recall last week I talked about Rebecca doing a piece with Harlequins all around International Women’s Day, well go and take a look at the video (click the picture) that’s out for everyone to see.

As all of our team are inspirational women it seems, quite rightly, they were all involved in IWD2020 in some way. Nakita, Rebecca and Nikki did a separate piece for the London Fire Brigade; why not take a look to find out from the guys themselves, what the challenge is and why they are doing this challenge; https://www.instagram.com/p/B9eFd6ojb-W/

In other day to day news, Nikki had her occupational health appointment at work and after completing various exercises with a BA set on her back to demonstrate that her leg could handle it, she has finally been approved to go back to work! She also did a CrossFit induction which means she can get membership at the gym; CrossFit is totally different and she feels it really challenges her, it is amazing preparation for what he will be putting her body through over the next few years. She has also managed to acquire 3 weighted vests from Gravity who are kindly donating them to the team, this is a huge help and great addition to the training days. Like the training isn’t difficult enough already…!

Nakita was involved in LACE training this week on her 2 days off, she loves training in line rescue so had a great time. Check out the picture to the right of Nakita and the team on the training days.

Away from the training and work she also went on her first date in a long time, she might have been nervous but if she can go to the Antarctic she can go on a date, right?

Apart from that Nakita’s training took a bit of a back burner this week as her car needed an MOT but she went for long walks with her youngest dog instead and after 5km he started limping. It wasn’t worth the risk to continue so she called for an emergency evacuation! Pup is fine now but had her worried. She also had some people try and throw negativity into her arena, and that 100% is not going to happen. She has no problem removing those who are negative or try and dull the shine. Life is about helping each other, being supportive and working together. Talking of supportive, don’t forget that although we are celebrating National Women’s Day this week these guys have plenty of men who are there every step of the way to lifted them up…quite literally! (See pic).

Team WAFA
For International Women’s Day at South Wales Fire and Rescue HQ George was invited to speak on the day about what it means to us as women, the service and the wider audience. Beci joined her which was great, it’s always lovely to have some moral support when doing these things. George also got to introduce Lowri Morgan who is an inspiration to us all, what endurance event she hasn’t done isn’t worth knowing! She is absolutely amazing and the team hope they do her proud and follow in her footsteps someday. 

On top of that George is still getting ready for the DSET conference next week where she is presenting to the military amongst other representatives on innovation and communication. It has been quite a bit of pressure to produce something that represents the team AFA and the service but 11th March will be judgement day for all the hard work she has put in. Also on the day there will be an official hand over announcing the team as their 2021 charity of the year!

The 3rd was George’s birthday and she spent the day at Techniquest presenting to 5×50 children all about the Expedition; how to tow tyres, what the weather is like and how dry it is and also how they will go to the toilet out in Antarctica! Talking of towing tyres she has been doing lots of that with the dogs and they love it.

This was all rounded off by a lovely meal in the evening in Penarth. Thank you George, you are truly inspirational. Happy Birthday/
Penblwydd Hapus!

Just as a reminder, the launch of the Good Wash products happened and you need to take a look at the amazing top available? (Don’t forget to go and buy one). There was also the launch of some amazing deals from KitTags UK. They did a run of freebie tags when you donated £10 to the GoFundMe Page. They might all be gone now, but head over to the KitTag website and take a look, you’ll never lose your luggage or bags again with these tags.

Finally, some of you may have heard of Kay Hallsworth, she is co-owner of Explorers Coffee who sponsor our Fire Angels. More importantly she is also Commander Kay Hallsworth of the Royal Navy and she was shortlisted for Women in Defence Unsung Heroes Award! She’s been in the Royal Navy for over 27 years, progressing from student nurse to Commander and Kay also has ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). I found an inspiring and interesting article on her here; https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2019/05/03/personal-disability-stories-10-kays-story/

Hope you are all feeling inspired, whether you are a woman or support one in life, keep doing what you’re doing! In light of the current situation in our country and the world, just a reminder. Stay Safe. Stay In.

Written by Elissa

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

Team WAFA
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…!

Team LAFA
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!

Team LAFA
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.

Team WAFA
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.