A Leicester mother-of-two is set to tackle an epic 150km trip to the North Pole in a bid to raise £36,000 for UK-wide children’s charity Action Medical Research.
Camila Benouali will be heading to Svalbard in northern Norway in April 2017 where she’ll learn how to use cross-country skis, load and pull a 45kg sled and pitch a tent on ice before setting off on her daunting journey.
She expects to take between 10 and 12 days to travel to the geographical North Pole on the frozen Arctic Ocean, skiing for up to 10 hours a day in temperatures as low as -45C.
“It can take up to three hours just to make breakfast as you have to melt the ice to make water for whatever dehydrated food you’re eating that day,” says Camila, who lives in Hamilton.
“I’m expecting it to be really tough – frostbite and cold injuries are going to be a very real threat and part of our training will be to spot the dangers and risks.”
The 33-year-old paediatric registrar at the Leicester Royal Infirmary says her work has inspired her to try to make a difference for future generations.
“Initially it was about the personal goal and the achievement of getting to the North Pole but the more I’ve learned about Action Medical Research, the more I want to raise funds to support their work,” she says.
“I see kids every single day at work who have got really, really tough lives; they've got rare diseases, their families are stressed out. I see children who are born at 25 weeks premature who then go on to have all kinds of complications, and some of those children sadly don't get to go home with their parents. The only way that this situation can improve is if the money is put into the research so we can do something about it and change those outcomes.
“It is a unique opportunity to raise a significant amount for charity as well as achieve a lifetime goal. It has become much more about the charity than the expedition – but I will still be really proud of myself if and when I make it there.”
For more than 60 years Action Medical Research has helped pioneer treatments and ways to prevent disease that have benefited millions of people in the UK and across the world. Research they’ve funded has helped to beat polio in the UK, develop ultrasound in pregnancy, fight meningitis and prevent stillbirths.
Action Medical Research is currently funding research into meningitis, Down syndrome, epilepsy and premature birth, as well as some rare and distressing conditions that severely affect children.
Camila, who’s mum to Aishah, aged three, and 15-month-old Raheem with her husband Aquil, has now embarked on a gruelling fitness drive to help her become strong enough to handle the challenge and says her family have helped to spur her on.
“My training to go the North Pole involves getting fitter in every way possible; I'm training three or four times a week, mostly in the evenings when my kids have gone to sleep. My endurance levels need to be increased and strength training is going to be really important because I have to pull a 45kg sled,” she adds.
“My family is my inspiration; they're the whole reason that I wanted to do something that was really big and outside my comfort zone. Kids should be able to have happy, healthy lives and I don't want to spend the next 40 years of my career wishing I could help more and regretting that I hadn't done all I could to improve technologies and treatments.”
To reach her fundraising goal, Camila is keen to explore corporate sponsorship opportunities and also plans to hold a gala dinner in Leicester in February as well as enlisting the support of friends and family: pals Nia and Joe Blackler and David Roberts have already agreed to climb the Yorkshire Three Peaks on 13 August to help boost the coffers.
For more information and to support Camila’s fundraising please visit action.org.uk/sponsor/TheNorthPoleMama