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DA Challenge Leader Jo inspires the next generation

Written by Steph 09 October 2015

"The biggest failure in life is the failure to try”

How do you spend an hour of your spare time? Shopping, surfing the web and buried in Facebook? Walking the dog, meeting up with friends, doing the ironing or chilling in front of the TV? So many ways so spend an hour. So, how about donating an hour of your time?

I heard about the charity ‘Inspiring the Future’ on the BBC Breakfast news; I can’t remember exactly when but it peaked an interest in me about showing the next generation that there are options out there which are slightly different to the norm. The news piece was about promoting the initiative to a wider audience and about trying to recruit more women to sign up and take part.

We all live busy lives, trying to fill every minute with one thing or another. I too live a busy life, by choice, but not so busy that I can’t give up an hour of my time and go and chat with teenagers about what is out there for them. All the initiative asks for is one hour a year.

I registered on the website – – not expecting to be overwhelmed by requests to talk and no, I didn’t hear anything straight away. However, I was eventually invited to a school to talk as part of their careers day. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the day so I had to decline. That’s the beauty of this initiative, you are not obliged to say yes and as a volunteer, it must fit in with your schedule.

This summer I was contacted by All Saints School in Weymouth. They wanted someone to speak to their Year 11s, on their first day of their final year at school (pressure!) and to kick start the day with something a little different. Unfortunately I was away on a trip when Miss Hegarty’s request initially came through but we kept in contact. Then, towards the end of August, she contacted me again to say that her speaker had dropped and would I be able to step in – ‘Yes!’ I said.

The theme of the talk was ‘Just try a little harder’ based around the saying ‘The biggest failure in life is the failure to try’. I’d heard the saying whilst watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a great movie with a fabulous cast and Dame Judy Dench delivered the line so eloquently that it has stuck with me since then. Miss Hegarty had spotted the saying on a post that I had put up on my 2,029 in 2 Boots Facebook page and thought it very fitting for such a talk.

2nd September came and off I went, driving the 1 ½ hours down to Weymouth. I could have said no to travelling such a distance but I had never been to Weymouth and with my faithful companion Daisy Dog on board, we were also looking forward to having a paddle in the sea afterwards. I have to say that I was rather nervous. I’m used to giving briefings and talks to adults where a little banter goes a long way and teaching outdoor skills to teenagers through DofE but standing up in front of 180 sixteen year olds is another thing!

I started my talk with the obligatory embarrassing photo from 28 years ago when I was their age which hopefully got them on side! I told them about my life at school, my hopes and aspirations for the future and then my life as it happened...

I left school thinking that I was going to work with and train horses all my life, get married, have children, the usual. How differently it has turned out. I left horses and went into retail, a natural move don’t you think! Working my way up through management I then went into another couple of industries using these skills until I landed up at Business Link as a Business Advisor. Economic development was never my thing and although I enjoyed the job I knew it wasn’t my future. Then I undertook my first challenge with Discover Adventure, a charity cycle ride in Peru. Completely out of my comfort zone that one time of saying yes completely changed my life, slowly but surely, moving me from a suit and heels to boots and outdoor kit. The rest, as they say, is history.

I came awaJo at Base Campy from the school not knowing whether I had made a difference. I did say in my talk that if just one of the 180 was inspired to get out and do a little more, stretch their own comfort zones, take a chance, do something different, then I’d had a successful morning.

You never know whom you are going to inspire or how you will inspire them. I was having this conversation last night with some dear friends. In my head I am still the little girl 'fat' girl at school, the reality now is very different.

Please share your life experiences and give a little of your time. You don’t need to travel the distance I did and even if you do, it’s certainly worth it.

Follow Jo’s inspiring story here

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