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Antarctic Fire Angels; A Question from Jenna (USA) – Team WAFA.

As you might remember the last post was Team LAFA’s response to Jenna’s question, this time it’s Team WAFA’s turn. Enjoy!

I wanted to take a moment and say how inspiring you all are. I work in EMS and am deciding whether to do nursing or fire. I am naturally petite and honestly the idea of being a female firefighter is so amazing to me but also so intimidating. Normally that would motivate me to have to do it, but for some reason I feel myself holding back. Is there any advice or knowledge about being a female FF you could give me? Appreciate all you do! Stay safe. – Jenna

George – Ok, so first things first. We are all different but all equal. As a woman in the fire service, you will be the minority, right now that’s the reality, however, consider that the world is desperate for visible role models in every aspect of life. Be confident that you will be an inspiration to a lot of people, young and old out there who are probably feeling exactly the same as you. You are most certainly not alone in the way you feel. 

I always say to people – set yourself up to succeed – do your research; meet the people you may be working with, be open minded and most of all manage your expectations. Not everyone you meet is going to be positive, there will always be those who can’t think outside their own norms but just remember that they are the ones who are missing out on the wonderful things life can show us. Someone like you smashing gender stereotypes, out there, every day,  you will be one of those pioneers pushing the boundaries every day.

You CAN be a super hero AND be vulnerable too. Follow your heart and not what other people say you should be doing.

Alison – So I joined the fire service in 1995 and was the only female in the Service at that time. Below is our course photo and I thought I had better highlight where I was because I know quite a few people have found me hard to spot! I was 26 years old and quite slight.

The below photos of me shows when I recently took non uniform members of the senior management team into our hot fire training facility so that they can appreciate the conditions we sometimes have to face. I wanted to include these as wearing breathing apparatus is one of my favourite things and I still do my breathing apparatus requalification even though the likelihood of me having to go into a fire is very slim.

I worked at Cardiff Central for 9 years and it is one of the busiest stations in the whole of Wales so I was at that time pretty much wearing breathing apparatus on a at least two or three times a tour in house fires and factory fires. In those days our breathing apparatus sets were a lot heavier as the oxygen cylinders were made of steel. Sometimes we would be wandering around very large complex buildings responding to false alarms wearing these on our backs in case there was a fire in the building.

It’s amazing though that once you go from wearing it to donning the facemask and going under air that you don’t notice the weight of the kit once you are actually working at an incident. The adrenaline makes that all go away.

Beci – I decided I was going to be a firefighter when I was 2 years old. My dad was a retained firefighter (we call it on call now) and I loved visiting the fire station.

Here in the UK we have a TV show called “Fireman Sam” (it makes me sad they haven’t updated the name of the show 33 years late) anyway, I was obsessed with it as a child and wanted to grow up to be like Firefighter Penny Morris. I never diverted from that dream. 

At 13 years old I was lucky enough to become a Fire Cadet at our local fire station. Not only did that experience cement my career goal, it gave me the confidence, guidance and role models I needed to apply when I was only 16 years old. Completing the tests and eventually station my whole time training course at 18 years old. I was 5”4’ and weighed 9st 4oz. 

The first few shifts were terrifying. I was just out of school, only just old enough to go to the pub and now I was on a watch with some extraordinary firefighters and phenomenal leaders. I didn’t know if I’d be enough. But I got there and I adore my job. I’m as excited to get up and go to work now as I was as a toddler waving to fire engines as they went past; as excited as that fire cadet learning new skills and the 18 year old on their first shift. 

The fire service is my second family. It’s allowed me more pride and happiness that I could have dreamed for. Go for it. You have nothing to lose and a lifetime of memories and friendships to gain. 

Written by Elissa.

Antarctic Fire Angels; A Question from Jenna (USA) – Team LAFA.

If you remember I mentioned we’ve had questions in from supporters and one of them was all the way from the USA! Jenna asked the below question and the team felt it prompted a wider response than just a few words. So first up is Team LAFA, and we even have some old pictures for you…

Question – I wanted to take a moment and say how inspiring you all are. I work in EMS and am deciding whether to do nursing or fire. I am naturally petite and honestly the idea of being a female firefighter is so amazing to me but also so intimidating. Normally that would motivate me to have to do it, but for some reason I feel myself holding back. Is there any advice or knowledge about being a female FF you could give me? Appreciate all you do! Stay safe. – Jenna

Nakita – Thank you so much for getting in touch with us all. I really love touching base with other emergency responders, especially women. We are each an inspiration to one another! When I joined the Fire Brigade I was 20 years old, weighed around 60 kg at 5’7 and could only deadlift 50kg (just). I wanted this job and I was determined to get it. I trained so hard. I did not want to be seen as strong for a woman, I wanted to be seen as strong full stop.

Can you spot Nakita in this team photo?

Don’t get me wrong; it was intimidating. I was surrounded by men, mainly over the age of 40 with years of firefighting experience. How was I going to tackle this? Over the years I learned the best approach is to stay true to yourself, do not change for anyone to get in with the crowd. You will bring something valuable to the team just the way you are. Do not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone either, work on your weaknesses. You will meet others that will want to see you succeed and thrive, surround yourself with these people. Most importantly be proud of who you are, be proud of your accomplishments and never stop developing yourself! 

I love my job, I am now an officer and am qualified in many skills working with the most amazing group of people. The best decision I made becoming a firefighter. And don’t worry; I now weigh 66kg and deadlift over 125kg. The whole team is here for you, we look forward to hearing which path you take.

Bex – I only started firefighting at the age of 37, any new work environment is intimidating to start with but I had a lot of support from colleagues and friends to help me settle in. I would say go for it and don’t have regrets, if it’s something that ends up not for you then at least you tried and if it turns out to be the best job in the world (it is!) then you didn’t miss out!

Firefighters come in all shapes and sizes these days and that’s what the job needs. Plenty of small places where I couldn’t go but you could. The service needs everyone. Get applying!

Nikki – The best knowledge or advice I can give about being a female firefighter is that it’s genuinely been the best decision I could ever have made. It has transformed my life and opened up so many unexpected doors for me along the way.

I was lucky enough to identify fairly young that I needed to do something worthwhile with my life and became a firefighter at 23; from that moment on I’ve made myself proud by not only doing the job that I immediately adored, but also by becoming a woman that other women would look at to challenge the perceptions of normal.

I completely agree that it can seem intimidating, but for anyone considering it I would say have faith in yourself and the level to which you will be trained. Imagine yourself at the end of training having passed out as a firefighter, being able to be that role model for other women and really focus on how that will make you feel (chances are the feeling will be amazing).

(Check out the next photo of Nikki on her passout in March 2010.)

So to Jenna – I hope this helps and I wish you all the best – you are already incredible!

Some inspiring words from our team and photos which highlight to me how male dominated this job is, but, as they say Jenna, the service needs you. Don’t forget, you can be and do anything you want to do.

Watch out for Team WAFA’s response later on this week!

Written by Elissa.

Antarctic Fire Angels; Q and A. (1)

As a bit of a shake up myself and the team went out on social media to see if anyone had any questions for us. A few we have answered directly but some needed a bit more detail and focus; having had a good think about their answers I’ve put some of it together for you to have a read as a mini blog. There will be more to come over the coming weeks and months but here are a few to keep you going…

Q1. In the toughest moments; what will each of you focus upon and draw upon to keep going?

Nikki – In tough moments I usually draw upon the mantra of ‘this too shall pass’. I think to myself ‘time will pass, this will end and at some point I’ll look back at this moment with pride’. It really does help!

Bex – Just knowing that I would have these moments and that I had trained 3 years for this would help me cope in those tough times. But also I would need a few moments of ‘me time’ to pull myself together, listen to a few good tunes and think about my family and how I wouldn’t want to let them down.

George – In my toughest moments, I bury myself in thoughts like; What I want today, to stop and go home, is different to what I want to achieve in the future; success and Antarctica resilience. Or I draw upon my favourite poem;

Self Pity by DH Lawrence
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

Alison – In my toughest moments I will think of how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing and think of all the people less fortunate, or physically unable to take part in a challenge like ours. I often think of my father who passed just over 2 years ago and how proud he would have been to see me do this. He was always my biggest fan and encouraged me to try different things.

Beci – For me it will be the knowledge that every step forward is a step towards home. A step towards the person I want to become and the goal I want to complete. “So far you’ve survived 100% of your toughest days… you’re doing great”.

Nakita – I have been through some tough moments throughout my life. Each time I was determined not to let these negative and painful moments defeat me. I would beat this, I would come out stronger and wiser, with the knowledge to help those I saw going through similar situations.

When my brother was serving in Afghanistan it was an extremely difficult time for my family. Fear is a dangerous monster that if allowed, will consume you whole. We had given my brother a small card with a poem on to carry, to read when he needed it. I now have the exact card in a frame as I walk in the door. So what would you do if you had no fear? Me? I’m off to the Antarctic!

Don’t Quit by John Greenleaf Whittier
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns
And many a failure comes about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Q2. What is your favourite book?

George – Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Nikki – Harry Potter (all of them!)

Nakita – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Alison – The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Beci – I don’t have a favourite book. It’s impossible to choose just one but I am currently reading Motherhood by Tetyana Denford.

Bex – I don’t read books so don’t have one.

Q3. If you could have a superpower what would it be?

Bex – To be invisible.

George – If I told you I’d have to kill you. But probably something to do with the mind.

Alison – Being able to run at supersonic speed. 

Nakita – Hmmm such a hard one! I’d like to be like Captain Marvel! 

Nikki – Being able to fly.

Beci – Being able to fly but also to be totally badass with it like Captain Marvel.

Q4. What is your favourite film?

Alison – Pulp Fiction.

Nakita – The Fifth Element.

Bex – The Beach.

George – So many to chose from! Probably any Bond film or any Emily Blunt film.

Nikki – Home Alone.

Bex – It is really hard to choose just one. Can we split it into Genres? If I had to pick it would be Star Wars. 

Q5. What is your guilty pleasure?

Nakita – Binge watching the Walking Dead.

Bex – Watching a place in the sun.

Alison – Watching First Dates. I love it! And my other one is Elvis.

George – Eating Turkish delight, in a oner. 

Nikki – Twiglets…and most snacks!

Beci – Watching Call The Midwife. I love it; watching it feels like a hug. 

Q6. How will you celebrate achieving your goal and who do you want there with you when you do and why?

Nakita – There is going to be a welcome home party which we will be having limited tickets for! 
Of course I want my immediate family (if possible my dogs!), my watch and close friends there and I guess Jay Morton from SAS Who Dares Wins seeing as he is trying so hard to find me on tinder…!
I think eating all the foods we’ve missed and just being in something that isn’t expedition kit will be a real treat! It could possibly be the last time for a while we are all together as a team so I’d want to make the most of it, as I know after what we will have been through I will really miss them.

Alison – It would involve a day of pampering first; hair, nails and full body massage. Putting on a fabulous dress and a pair of high shoes (if my feet can take it). A party with curry and Indian food which I love. Dancing and drinking with my husband, family and friends and all those who’ve supported us. And if I could get an Elvis impersonator to sing that would be the icing on the cake….And then go and lie on a beach for two weeks. 

Nikki – Obviously it’s got to be a massive party with everyone there, but I also think I’d like to follow that up with smaller dinners with just me and my loved ones, and I think my own personal celebration will be when all the hype has died down – a night all cosy in my flat with a glass of Prosecco in one hand and a tub of twiglets in the other, reflecting on what a mad journey it’s been.

George – I would want my partner there for sure in Punta Arenas and then to get back home asap to see the dogs and smother them in hugs! Party wise, yes exclusive invites from back home and of course sponsors, but considering I’m not someone who has a long list of pals, my invite list would be quite short! 

Beci – I’ll want to see my husband and the kids on our return first and foremost. I think I’ll need quiet time to come back around to “normality” and do some reflection.When it comes to a celebration I’d want the other fire angels and all the wonderful people who have supported us to achieve that goal in whatever capacity at the party. And of course for there to be LOADS of food!

Rebecca – I would want a shower then to see my partner and have a beer, follow by seeing my dog! Then a party to see all my family and friends and eat the food I want and drink what I want.

We hope you enjoyed a little insight into the minds of our Antarctic Fire Angels with the above questions and a big thank you to those who asked then. There will be lots more to come so make sure you keep coming back!

To finish off, here is a little video treat from Nakita all about lockdown and what she is doing to help herself through it. Click on the picture to view.

Remember; stay in, protect the NHS and save lives.

Written by Elissa.

Antarctic Fire Angels; Lockdown Begins. (Week 10 and 11)

Week ending 29th March and 5th April

So here we are folks, in lockdown. It was something we knew was coming at some point and quite rightly too. Whether we think it was soon enough is a different matter but we are where we are now and we will ride this out together. Personally I can’t remember a time when everyone came together like they are during this; from the clapping on Thursday evenings to thank our heroes on the front line, to neighbours helping those who are vulnerable, FaceTiming family and friends and actually ‘seeing’ then more than ever. We are all pulling together in a way that is truly beautiful and it gives me some hope for humanity.

Team WAFA
Much like the rest of us in the country and indeed the world, the team is adapting and making the most of everything this world has to offer at the moment. For George it’s all about taking in the surroundings and perhaps taking on a new perspective. She feels very lucky to live where she does right now, in the countryside. It is something she has always taken for granted but with lockdown continuing for the foreseeable future she is certainly making the most of it now.

It’s the little things, like taking in the sights and sounds, the birds seem louder on her daily exercise and even seem to be getting cheeky and brave around humans when they see them. It is almost like nature knows the human race is in some sort of difficulty, which or course, it is. #escapethepandemic is the hashtag the team are using when training because it’s important that we do that, escape it, for even a short period of time, everyday. Training is pretty much all there is at the moment so they are going to use this opportunity to keep going; hoping to emerge fitter, stronger and have a bigger appreciation of what we have and what we could have lost.

In a similar vein Alison has been pushing the training forward and managed to track down and buy a ski track trainer. It is from the 1990’s and they are really hard to get hold of and it was even in full working order too.

Her husband is not hugely pleased as it started life in the dining room but she is able to move it around and will be able to use it in the garden, which is what she has been doing. Check out the picture and if you want to see a short clip of Alison in action, click on it to take you to the AFA Instagram page.

Like the rest of us Alison is getting used to working from home and video calling; it is still nice to be able to see people’s faces even though we can’t go and see them at the moment. She has been putting music on to try and cheer up those who walk past when in the office too. It is also the realisation for most of us that we can’t just pop and see our family; birthdays, like Alison’s Grandson’s are celebrated by FaceTime or Zoom or Skype, whichever you use. For those who have elderly relatives like Alison’s Mum it is a daily phone call to check in. Altogether Alison has had 4 family birthday’s and her own wedding anniversary during lockdown; the family are already calling for a party at her house when lockdown is lifted. We hope we’re all invited?!

Beci has had a difficult time, the mood went from good and positive to anxious and frustrated children but they worked through it together as a family and are now back to some sort of ‘normal. Like all of us we are trying to find some sort of new normal with lockdown and those who have children are also home schooling at the same time. For Beci the day’s are; children’s PE wth Joe Wicks, yoga, ‘school’, lunch, more school work and then a long walk with the dog. Along with FaceTiming friends and family, dinner and bedtime it doesn’t leave much time for training. But we must all do what we can to get through this. Check out Beci on a family walk with the tyres and the children…click away.

She has also volunteered to help the Welsh Ambulance Service in whatever capacity she can through this very strange and difficult time. But she is still smiling and the family still dance in the kitchen and that is fantastic, because for those of you have followed from the start you will know how amazing it is for Beci to be dealing with all of this in the way that she is. It will be a fantastic learning base to see how well she copes with change and challenges on the road to Antarctica.

Team LAFA
After Nakita returned to work from the week of training with HART it felt like the world has been turned upside down. Everything was changing in order to keep the firefighters and community safe and with all the information about the virus coming in thick and fast it was all quite overwhelming. Knowing that two members of the household where her family are come under the high risk category she knew she had to make the call that she wasn’t going to be able to see them for the foreseeable. It sunk in that living on her own with her dogs at her parents it was going to be a tough ride. The first day off she got was totally surreal but as always she kept herself going and tried to keep herself motivated; not watching too much TV and eat everything she could out of boredom. (Believe me, I know the feeling and I don’t have such willpower to step away from the snacks…)

The closing of gyms really hit Nikki as she had just got back in to her stride after the ‘shark bite’ but it is 100% the right thing to do for the country and humanity so she is going to try and improvise. Having redone her training schedule to include home workouts alongside the workouts they can still do at work plus the tyre dragging she is in a much better place.

Mother’s Day was difficult, she managed to go on a long walk with her mum and step-dad staying 2 metres apart which was very strange and Nikki came home to the news that her step-mum was in hospital; a hugely worrying time, not virus related and she is now home and well. I guess it was more around the principle of not being able to sit with people when they need you most, not being able to hold their hands when they are in pain, that must be the hardest part of all this. It puts everything into perspective, the current situation, and hopefully will make everyone a little kinder when lockdown is lifted.

Nikki has been focusing on how she will stay sane whilst cooped up in her flat alone for a few days at a time. Luckily she can still go to work, so unless she has to self isolate the most she will be int he flat is just over 3 days but even that stresses her out. Keeping mental health in a good place is a huge deal and never more so than right now, so she came up with some rules to help her; turning the radio on in the morning instead of the TV and making sure she does exercise in the morning to start her day off well. They might not seem like big things but this is what works for Nikki, we all know ourselves well enough to know what helps our mental health and what doesn’t.

Be kind to yourself during lockdown. And why not listen to Nikki talk about how she is coping with lockdown during her daily exercise, click on her photo and it will take you to the video clip.

Obviously given the current lockdown all the team events have been cancelled, including the London Half Marathon, the Blue Light Stair Run, Harlequins Game Changer, The British Firefighters Challenge and all team training. Thank you to anyone who donated extra to see the guys run the London Half in their full fire kit, maybe next year? And yes this is right for the situation we are in, absolutely, there is no quibble or quarrel about that, and the guys will keep training and keep pushing so that when lockdown is lifted they are fit and ready to go. If anything, this is an ironic practise run of the isolation they will face in Antarctica.

Join us again for the next blog, follow us on social media, spread the word and remember, stay safe, stay in, protect the NHS and help save lives. We applaud every single person who is a key worker, every single one of you who get up each morning and put yourself at risk, go to work to help the country and keep it going. We salute you.

Written by Elissa.

Pre-Lockdown. (Week 9)

Week ending 20th March

So the blog has finally caught up with the rest of the world and we are just about to enter lockdown. As you are aware our Fire Angels are key workers as firefighters so their world doesn’t really change, if anything it gets more complicated, harder and busier. One big change will be how they train and when, we are allowed one form of exercise per day so in the coming weeks and months we will find out what changes they have made and any improvisation they have done to keep training in lockdown and all whilst social distancing. I have a feeling that the tyres will be involved somehow…

This does bring me on to another important factor; given that events are postponed including fundraising and big training events for the guys it will mean that there will not be as much for us to blog about for the foreseeable future. We have however decided to keep this going, keeping you up to date, giving hints and tips where we can on how to deal with lockdown, what exercise you can do and what routines they are getting in to in order to keep them mentally fit too.

Team LAFA
For Nikki as the week developed she started to feel really weird about the situation, as I am sure we all did. When this all first started it was hard to get into some sort of routine for most of us and the team are no different; like Nikki most of us are quite happy in our own little bubble going about day to day life and then when something like this hits it is very hard to process. A tip, don’t read the news and media too much in the day, in fact if you can, try and have one day away from it entirely, you can genuinely drive yourself crazy with it. If you are like me then some of us need to start social distancing from the fridge and the biscuit tin, but these guys have much more drive and motivation than I do!

To overcome the weird feeling Nikki got up and did a savage 40 minute workout that included 150 burpees and at the end of it all she felt much better, in fact her whole perspective had changed on the situation. In her own words Nikki says; ‘I really do use exercise for my mental health – it makes me happy and I feel more like myself, ready to take on the world!’ Although it may not be for all of us, if exercise helps your mental health, try and keep it going whilst on lockdown. Look after your physical and mental health as best you can.

Before social distancing kicked in Nikki and her friend Emily went tyre dragging around Thursley Common. It is the perfect place for Nikki as it is close to home and the terrain is a mixture of sand and trail, whilst being mostly flat but a fair few hills in to challenge you too.

They managed to cover 6.4km in 2 hours and it got really tough. Both Emily and her Mum, who came along for the session, all had a go at pulling the tyres; Emily’s mum did brilliantly before handing the tyres back declaring they were crazy! The whole session felt really great, check out the picture of Nikki in action.

Nakita had a training session with the HART Team in Wales, Llangollen. She had a great week even if it was freezing cold. It was good to have something to occupy her mind as she has been thinking a lot about the stress of not being at home and able to help her family. It also meant taking another week away from training and working on the expedition and the AFA schedule.

It is that constant balance of finding enough time for work, training, fundraising events and some time for yourself too. Kudos to the team for keeping calm and carrying on.

Team WAFA
For George it is certainly different to last week with all her presentations and meetings. It has been a quiet week so far, just one meeting about setting up the social enterprise and she has also decided to go for her mountain leader qualifications which means she can take customers up mountains safely and puts her on the road to leading winter and polar expedition. Sounds phenomenal and will add another string to her already very full bow! But now back to that meeting, her and Alison met up with Rhys from ‘Social Business Wales’ to explore their ideas about setting up a social enterprise so that they can offer up some training, development and leadership opportunities to other groups of people. They have some work to do in order to write the strategy but Rhys thought it was a great idea and really liked the challenge they are undertaking along with getting schools involved, pretty sure there will be more invites in the post for them soon.

The current situation the world is in has meant a setback with fundraising but it is temporary and there will be many more exciting fundraising events planned in the future. The team is understandably very quiet, taking it all in like the rest of us. However trying to keep some sort of normality in life means that with gyms closing Alison looked in to what equipment she could get delivered to her house so that the training doesn’t take a back seat in the coming months. Exercise for the team is a great way to destress and keep mentally healthy, Alison also finds it a great way to empty her head space and sometimes helps her come up with solutions to complex problems she has been battling with. So for the foreseeable future they will be re-thinking their training routines, with only one allowance a day for exercise outside the rest will be improvisation and home gyms.

For Alison, now she is back in to her work and play lifestyle she decided to try her hand at dragging the tyres for the first time. She went for an hour around the local park and got some very strange looks and of course some people wanted to know why she was doing it. Alison told people all about the expedition and, obviously, people were really interested. It makes sense for the guys to get their logos on their training kit and maybe some business cards to give out to people so they can stay in the loop over the coming years. As for the actual tyre dragging it was pretty hard, she tells me you can feel the change in the surface and notice the smallest incline, great to practise the technique and keep fitness up.

For those of you who follow the team and myself on social media you will know that they guys have started to film a few bits and pieces, mainly to say hello and how they are coping with the lockdown along with some hints and tops to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy.

Stayed tuned for more to come but as a starter here is founder and team leader for LAFA, Nakita. (Click the picture for the video).


Stay Safe. Stay At Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.

Written by Elissa

The Times 2. (Week 6)

(Week ending 28th Feb 2020)

Biggest news this week was the release of the Times2 interview that the team did a few weeks back. They were so impressed with the article and you couldn’t miss it, a whole two page spread inside The Times. For those of you who did miss it you can find it here on the official website; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-female-firefighters-bidding-to-conquer-antarctica-s98nprdqn

It showcased the team with some amazing pictures and the article itself was powerful and reinforced the positive reasons for this expedition. Reasons for why they want to do this vary but I liked these wise words from Alison – ‘I’m a granny and I want to leave a legacy, I want my grandchildren to know that women can go anywhere and do anything if they put their minds to it’ and as Nakita points out in the article, no one has this life down to a fine art, no one is 100% certain of how everything will turn out. We just have to keep calm and carry on. ‘There’s no such thing as a mentally super-fit person. Not in life and certainly not int he fire-service. You do your very best on the scene at the time, but you’re only human; things come back to haunt you. Why did this disaster happen? On this expedition we want to show that you can suffer adverse events professionally and personally, but still achieve something incredible as a team.’

Team LAFA
In other news, Nikki has been desperately trying to get back to her peak physical fitness after the ‘shark bite’ incident and is still awaiting her medical to give her the go ahead to get back to work. It’s been a fairly quiet week due to that, going on a 20km walk with her mum who is 64 but very active and super keen on joining in as many walks as possible so that they can spend some time together.

Having had her walking boots for over 12 years which were falling apart Nikki decided to treat herself to a new pair and even got a bargain for a pair at £89 down from £180! With all the kit the team have to buy over the coming years, every saving is a bonus.

Sticking with the training, Rebecca started tyre pulling and boy was it hard work! With one hour at a time to get used to it it has made her realise that there is a lot of training to be done before they are ready to tackle the Antarctic. On a positive side it is hugely exciting for the team to get the specific training underway and ensure they are fit and ready for 2023.

With International Women’s Day coming up, and our team being just that, truly inspirational, Rebecca had an interview with Harlequins Rugby Club. You might remember she used to play for the club before her injury so it was lovely for her to have some involvement still and be asked to do this video piece for such an important day.

Team WAFA
George had a crazy busy week; first off she has been in contact with Helen Turton of ‘Newland Expeditions’ to plan and set the date for the team’s Norway training next year. The pressure now being to fundraise to cover the deposit as soon as possible; with her constant drive to get things done it has been frustrating for her not being able to get everything booked and sorted immediately. Despite that, it is SUPER exciting and the team can’t wait for the trip. Second on the list she has been in discussions with NatWest to go on to their pre-accelerator programme which would give them access to hubs for meetings instead of the usual coffee shops and also business links that we would never have otherwise thought of.

Along side that she has been busy sorting out her presentation for ‘Techniquest’ on 3rd March which will see 5 groups of 50 children pull a sled of 85kg! It will be a long day and it is also her birthday that day, she will have earned a treat a two by the end of the day. Not to mention the 25 minute PowerPoint presentation to write for the DSET conference later in March and writing her speech for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service International Women’s Day; this woman is a machine!

The Goodwash Company that have been mentioned a fair few times before are working with the AFA team, sorting out product lines to sell which will help raise funds for the team too. How amazing is that?!

Technically this was launched for International Women’s Day which is the week after this blogs events, but as it’s so incredible I think i’ll let it slip in!

If you haven’t already seen the top or purchased it, first off, why not?! Secondly, click the imagine and go and get yourself one of these beautiful tops!

Don’t forget to keep donating on the GoFundMe page and i’ve dropped another picture below shot by the amazing photographer Gareth Iwan Jones from the Times2; this is the training these guys are putting in. When we come home and think about what’s for dinner or think about sitting on the sofa and what to watch on TV, they are pulling tyres over beaches and muddy park land. They are pushing themselves to the limit enough to know that when this expedition comes they will have done everything they can to showcase what they as firefighters, women, grandmothers, mothers, daughters can do. I said it in the first blog and I’ll say it again, this is all out girl power pushing boundaries; when people say ‘but women can’t do that’ they are saying ‘yes we can!’.

Written by Elissa.

Skiing in Scotland! (Week 4)

(Week ending 14th Feb 2020)

It’s been a busy week for the team with the main focus being on their weekend away in Scotland learning how to Nordic Ski. It was also the first time that the team had “lived” together. Which was something they were really looking forward to, with busy lives and work schedules it is hard to find time out to do these events together. They all found the time away a great bonding session, given that they had only ever met once before as a team it was a real step forward in cementing the AFA family. Beci has taken the role as team chef making sure the team were fed and watered and Rebecca was bin lady and furniture mover extraordinaire!

Team LAFA all stayed together in preparation for a 4am drive to Heathrow, ouch! They got there in great time and were slightly nervous that they hadn’t heard from the WAFAs but they knew they were staying local to the airport and were sure they were all safe and sound. Hopefully they got an extra hour in bed or maybe they were helping Alison fit everything in to her suitcase?! The full AFA team reunited at gate 5 ready for the flight. Nakita had the new team jackets with their logo ready and George had gilets from Mountain equipment ready too. They all looked very professional and felt like they were part of a proper team.

Once in Scotland their first trip was to Tesco to fill 2 trolley’s up with all the essentials they needed for the long weekend before heading to their beautiful cottage; no wi-fi and slightly off grid which certainly helped them all focus on the days ahead.

The skiing was full on and although the team were up to the physical challenge they certainly all felt it mentally as it took such concentration. It has helped them look at, amend and tweak their training plans to ensure they are ready for the longer skis ahead. Over all the weather was pretty kind to them with only a bit of rain and some high winds. For the Fire Angels, day one was all about learning the basics; getting moving and staying up right, which is pretty key in all of this! They were moving up and down a 25 metre track initially and then going around a track before hitting a ski slope in the afternoon. Alison had a big fall which bruised not only her ego but her bottom! She had previously expressed her concern at not being able to keep up with the team but the instructors were really lovely and showed a lot of patience. It was a mixed ability group of 16 people it was great to support each other on what ended up being a more physically and mentally challenging course than they all imagined.

Day two was all about working on the technique, to try and glide better and use the poles correctly. Alison was a bit sore from the fall the day before so sat it out with Nikki, who you might remember couldn’t really take part due to her ‘shark bite’. The guys really felt like the Sunday consolidated everything they had learnt and that they had made huge improvements from the day before. It has also made them realise what a monumental task they have ahead of them over the coming years; they are already putting the time and effort in ten fold and now they know they’ve just got to keep going.

Also you might recall that Beci had to deal with the guilt of leaving her family for the weekend, especially as it was her daughter’s birthday on the Sunday. She managed to hold it all together, that was, until she saw a rainbow. Her daughter is a rainbow baby and owns a lot of rainbow clothes which triggered the guilt and emotion all over again and she ended up crying on all the girls. As always they were a great support to each other and really helped Beci through the day and as a team they all went for a lovely walk in the forestry together. Baring in mind that this was the most amount of time they had all spent together it really was an ideal 4 days for them to get to know more about individual personalities and learnt a lot about each other.

I am sure we can all remember the horrific weather and storm Ciara that weekend; well with a delayed flight it meant the team had a very late finish. However they put the delay time to good use and did some planning and task assignments for the next few weeks as a team.

Monday was tyre pulling day with the Times 2 magazine which rounded off a busy weekend for the team. They all got to drag the tyres on Merthyr Mawr sand dunes, remember those tyres, the ones that George managed to rescue? The interview and the photoshoot was great fun and the article will be out soon so keep an eye out! Although it all went really well it was a huge eye opener for the team. It is going to be hard, really hard, probably harder than they ever imagined; but they are going to keep pushing and training and getting stronger. As George says, it is better to find it hard now and be more attuned to it when they finally get out to the Antarctic!

It is hard to understand the time, effort and dedication the 6 firefighters are putting in. It just proves that the reasons they want to do this; to raise awareness of mental health, to push stereotypical boundaries and to show every girl and woman that they can be whoever they want to be and do what ever they want to do are deeply embedded into who they are as people. This comes from the heart and to remind people we are always stronger together. For example, for Beci the weekend meant 3am bedtime on the Sunday after the delayed flight before getting up for 6am for the school run followed by a full day at Merthyr Mawr sand dunes dragging tyres and then straight onto a nightshift…! Needless to say on Wednesday night she went to bed at 7.30pm! Dedication, resilience and stamina.

I just had to share this; the picture to the left is fantastic, remember that Beci left her walking boots in the car in Wales…so Nakita, as founder of the AFA, was there to help out whenever she needed a ‘lift’ in more ways than one. Never leave anyone behind.

There are many more exciting projects on the horizon which means much more work for the team. However they will keep their end goal in sight to help with the extra pressure, and keep striving for greatness.

Overall this was a brilliant weekend for the team, and a huge thank you to the Huntly Nordic and Outdoor Centre. Yes they had ups and downs and yes it made them realise how steep the road ahead is; but Rebecca’s knee survived the weekend, Nikki’s ‘shark bite’ is intact even though she found the weekend hard, she is not used to sitting it out and being physically at the ‘back of the pack’ and last but not least, all the guys have improved on their skiing. Not bad for a long weekend, delayed flights and no wi-fi!

This really is ordinary women doing extraordinary things!

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.