In May, Great Wall Hiking organized another memorable Virgin Atlantic CSR/Charity Trek, teaming with partner Grasshopper Adventures for the third year in a row to customize a trip. An 11-strong Virgin Atlantic team took to the hills for a four-day Great Wall charity trek to raise money for Free the Children (www.freethechildren.com), an international charity and educational partner that strives to educate, engage and empower youth. This Great Wall fundraising event was part of Virgin Atlantic’s greater Corporate Social Responsibility campaign; the team, made up of Virgin Atlantic employees, friends and family members, were sponsored by donors to embark on this challenge trek to raise awareness and funds for Free the Children to help remove barriers to education and to empower communities to break the cycle of poverty.
Because Great Wall Hiking always seeks to bring travelers into close and authentic interaction with the environment and local culture, and Free the Children seeks to create local and global citizens who are agents for change, we planned a trip for them that would help them to not just take in the sights, but also to give back to the local community and tourism industry, and learn more about China through their time here.
The Virgin Atlantic team enjoyed a fulfilling four days trekking on the original, unrestored and wild sections of the Wall. Literally off the beaten trail, most of the time they even had the Wall to themselves; free from tourists, they could enjoy the blissful majesty of the Great Wall in peace and quiet. The team also enjoyed two nights at local farmers’ guesthouses, complete with authentic homemade food, as well as a wonderful lakeside camp-out at the Huangyaguan section of the Great Wall. The trekkers set up camp in a chestnut orchard that dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), just 100 meters from the Wall, and dug into a hearty BBQ dinner at the campsite. Channeling history into their own personal experience, they actually got to stay overnight in one of the watchtowers on the Wall.
By day, the trekkers also proved their mettle and their passion by tackling the Great Wall challenge trek, ranging from Huangyaguan, Jinshanling, Gubeikou, Huanghuacheng, Xishuiyu and Jiankou, all the way to Mutianyu. One day proved particularly challenging due to the heat and humidity, but the team bonded together, encouraging one another to persevere as they remembered the reason for their journey. Capping off their trek with a toast of the local Great Wall wine at Mutianyu, they then entered the city of Beijing to visit the massive imperial palace at Forbidden City. The team enjoyed their victory over Beijing roast duck at a local courtyard restaurant and was reminded of the greater significance of their efforts as one of the team members gave a presentation on Free the Children, their chosen cause for this fundraising event.