22nd Feb, 2019

Air Ambulance paramedic heading to Africa for gruelling Bear Grylls charity challenge

Tristan Harris 16th Apr, 2016 Updated: 17th Oct, 2016

A MIDLANDS Air Ambulance critical care paramedic from Cofton Hackett will take part in a a gruelling five-day survival challenge in Africa in a bid to raise £25,000 for the life-saving charity in its 25th year.

Karen Baker will be joined by her two colleagues Ryan James and Sofia Voutianitis, for the Air 25 Bear Grylls Survival Challenge.

The trio will travel to Zimbabwe in November for the event which is billed as ‘the hardest challenge in the history of charity’.

Prior to the trip, the group will be trained in a variety of skills they will need, including tracking, catching and skinning animals for food, starting fires in tough conditions and more.

There will be a series of Bear Grylls challenges during their trip – similar to those seen on the TV – and it will culminate in a 36 hour expedition where they will need every attribute they have learnt.

On the first day, after arriving at Victoria Falls Airport, the group will be taken to a conservation centre where they will be given their survival kit, camp equipment and basic African food rations. There will then be a session on Bear’s priorities of survival and on knife survival skills.

Day two will see the group undergo fitness training before embarking on foot to the wilderness camp. They will learn to track, stalk and navigate without a compass, find out about foraging for wild food and filtering and purifying rancid water. They will be told about the big African animals – rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard and elephant – they will be surrounded by. They will also learn how to build survival shelters, set traps, build and light camp fires and be tasked with finding and preparing their first evening meal.

On day three, the team will learn about situational survival, first aid, tying knots and how to make improvised stretchers and harnesses. They will then walk through the African bush before being taken in a 4×4 to the difficult terrain that awaits them for their main 36-hour survival challenge. Abseiling, river crossing and a commando crawl are all challenges they will be facing.

On day four at dawn they will leave in a 4×4 with just a knife and an empty water canteen. They will be going to another wilderness camp near the Zambezi River where there will be lions, rhinos and giraffes. They will have to cross extreme white water, negotiate a vertical 200metre gorge, rugged cliffs and craggy outcrops. There will be breathtaking swings, slides, jumps and rides until the team find themselves on a beach, trapped in a gorge and on their own.

From there until the final day, it will be up to them to survive – to stay warm and dry and to catch and cook their own food to eat.

Their very last task will be to get up at dawn so they can traverse, climb and paddle their way back to a meeting point.

They will be against the clock to ensure they do not miss their helicopter ride back to civilisation.

Karen told The Standard: “We chose this one because it seemed like the most exciting and adventurous challenge of them all and, of course, the chance to visit Africa.”

As well as being the 25th year of the Midlands Air Ambulance, each mission costs £2,500 so if they reach their fund-raising target of £25,000, their efforts have the potential to save ten lives.

The Midlands Air Ambulance serves the West Midlands, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Welsh borders. It is funded entirely by the public, receives no Government or Lottery funding, and £6 million is needed each year to keep it operational.

Those wanting to donate can text BEAR16 and then the amount they want to give to 70070.

Alternatively, visit https://www.justgiving.com/beargryllsafricachallenge2016 and pledge there.

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