By Rachel Steinberg
A young project manager is preparing to walk 100km of the Thames Path in two days in order to raise funds for vulnerable young Peruvians.
Thomas Pickford spent four months volunteering as a programme coordinator for the Latin American Foundation for the Future (LAFF), which works with vulnerable young people.
The Clapham resident was hoping to return to Peru to walk 100km of its Sacred Valley in the Andean highlands, about 15km north of Cusco, but the pandemic put his plans on hold.
Instead, the 28-year-old will be trekking the same distance in the UK which he has determined is about the distance between Windsor Castle and the Thames Barrier, and has set up a GoFundMe page to benefit LAFF.
“My friends and family said I was crazy,” Thomas said.
“My sister recently did the Three Peaks and said ‘that killed me off’ and this is twice as long, so she said ‘what are you doing?’
“But they’ve all been really supportive and they all know how much the charity means to me after I went out there last year.”
Thomas was obsessed with the idea of visiting Peru ever since he was six years old, when his grandad brought back souvenirs from a trip of his own.
So he leapt at the chance to volunteer with LAFF, an opportunity that also allowed him to practice his Spanish.
He was deeply inspired by what he saw once he landed. LAFF, a UK-based charity, works primarily with young boys who have experienced homelessness and abuse, giving them a safe place to live while providing educational support.
It also partners with Casa Mantay, a home for teenage mothers and their babies, many of whom became pregnant as a result of abuse or rape and were rejected by their families and communities for getting pregnant out of wedlock.
Donations to Thomas’ trek, which he’s dubbed the Sacred Thames Valley Challenge, will be doubled thanks to the Big Give’s Christmas challenge.
The intrepid trekker is hoping to reach Kingston at the end of day one on Friday. And while he might not be stopping for ceviche on the way to the finish line, he is looking forward to seeing more of the city he’s lived in for five years.
He said: “I love the city and always try to explore as much as I can. This will be the furthest I have ever walked in one go, so I am apprehensive, especially about the weather, but excited at the same time.
“It may not have the grandeur of the Andes mountains, but it’s still a pretty impressive walk through our amazing city.”
Pictured top: Thomas Pickford in Peru
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