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Virtual Mount Everest climb for learning disability charity

A charity worker who has been supporting people with learning disabilities to stay connected during the pandemic has taken on a lockdown challenge to raise funds for the friendship and dating service where she works.

Sacha Samms is a project development worker for Luv2meetU, a friendship and dating agency for adults with learning disabilities or autism, run by national charity Hft.

To raise money for the cause, the 38-year-old walked the equivalent distance of a trek up Mount Everest over the course of three weeks.

She was inspired to take on the 40-mile challenge by the people she has been supporting to stay connected over the course of the pandemic.

After starting out her career as a social worker, Sacha joined Luv2meetU four years ago after looking for an opportunity to directly make a difference in her community.

Before the pandemic, Sacha’s work revolved around helping people to socialise and chaperoning dates, and included activities such as bowling and visits to cafes, to day trips to Edinburgh.

Since the pandemic forced face to face meetings to be temporarily suspended, Sacha has been supporting people virtually as part of the service’s programme of online events, designed to combat the risk of loneliness and isolation.

For Sacha, this has included hosting crafts, games and activities including a Sunday Brunch Lego group, and weekly craft morning, as well as regular check-in chats.

During her 24-day-challenge, Sacha has trekked nearly 40 miles around her local area, accompanied by her dog, Mitchy. With an app linked to Google street view guiding her on her journey, the charity worker virtually passed the villages of Tok Tok and Benkar, until she reached Everest’s virtual summit last week.

After raising nearly £200, Sacha plans for funds to go towards supporting members on low incomes to access Luv2meetU services in the north.

Members currently pay a small annual membership fee, and Sacha hopes to subsidise this with her fundraised income, to ensure even more adults with learning disabilities are able to extend their social networks and improve their health and wellbeing.

Sacha said: ‘I’m delighted to have raised money for a cause that I feel so passionately about.

‘There are so many things I love about my job and I feel blessed to be a part of such a unique project. The pandemic has been really difficult for our members, and for some we are their only connection to the outside world at the moment.

‘Keeping people motivated, engaged and smiling is so important and we’ve seen some really lovely relationships blossom, even during the pandemic. I’m hoping that the funds I raise during this challenge will help to make life a little brighter for even more people with learning disabilities.’

Emma Macdonald, Sports and Challenge events manager at Hft, said: ‘We couldn’t be prouder of Sacha’s efforts to raise funds for a service which is particularly important at this moment in time.

‘Not only does Sacha spend her days helping people to stay connected, but her fundraising efforts will mean Luv2meetU is able to support even more members through a challenging time.’

To donate to Sacha’s challenge, visit her fundraising page.

Photo Credit – Hft

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