Interview with the wonderful Veronika Susedkova

Hi, my name is Veronika and I have been volunteering for the Peak District Challenge event since it started. I’m going to share a bit about why I am involved and I hope it might inspire you to come and join our team of volunteers at the challenge this year!

Is there a reason why you volunteer at the Peak District Challenge every year?

I am a volunteer and friend of S.A.L.V.E. International, the main partner charity of the Peak District Challenge. They help street-connected children in Uganda and I wanted to get involved to support S.A.L.V.E. It is great as it means I can contribute meaningfully over a short amount of time. It’s a very enjoyable event, and I usually do it with my partner, which makes for great bonding time. We’ve now done it for 5 years, ever since the Challenge began!

Have you volunteered for things like this before?

I have done lots of volunteering with many charities over the years, from campaigning events to charity shops, from local causes to global ones. I like the chance to volunteer, share skills, learn new things and be part of a wonderful caring community.

I was really glad that I was able to volunteer in Uganda for a month last year with the S.A.L.V.E. team. It was important that we didn’t just do what we thought would be fun when we were there, but we did what was really needed. We did lots of activities with the kids who stay with S.A.L.V.E., such as decorating the spaces the children play in. I also worked with staff, exploring mindfulness and wellbeing activities, as their roles can be really demanding. S.A.L.V.E. does work with the families of the children too – they get support to secure their own income. The Ugandan S.A.L.V.E. team helped me to design workshop for families to learn about growing in small spaces. It was great to come together, learn and share ideas.

The Peak District Challenge remains one of my favourite volunteering opportunities in the year, because of the great and friendly team of people who want to come and help each year.

What do you do behind the scenes so everything runs smoothly?

The day before, I do lots and lots of baking – savoury flapjacks are the ultimate hiking fuel! I have also tried to create some vegan options as there has been increasing demand.

On the day its all about joining in and doing whatever needs doing to make sure people have a great event. It’s wonderful being part of a team with this as a focus. It brings you all together. You know you are making sure people have a great time and can raise as much money for charity as possible.

How do you motivate others who are struggling on the way round?

We usually operate the checkpoints on the day – the early shifts can be tough! But seeing the hikers early means they’re still fairly hyped up. Later in the day, people get tired and it’s important to give maximum support! We give them food and drink, cheer them on their way, and try to attend to any extra support they might need they can continue with the challenge safely. I have found that food is a great motivator and that anything can taste great when you walk fast and far!

Will you be volunteering this year?

Yes, of course! I don’t mind which checkpoint I’m on this year, I’ll be happy to help (and so will my partner)! And we might hopefully see some new and old faces there to help put on a fantastic event.