Charity begins at WEX

From tiny acorns

If you’ve read the Wex Photographic Staff reviews you may be aware that a group of us are into our outdoor pursuits. More specifically, we like mountains. Norfolk is a little restrictive when it comes to mountain based pursuits, so quite regularly we’ll pack our bags and head off for some quality time amongst the hills.

It was following one of these trips that the first suggestions of doing something a little more adventurous came about.

Rewind a decade or so and a young lad is watching a documentary on Peru. Fascinated by the wildlife of the Amazon Rainforests, amazed by the huge lines and patterns in the Nazca Desert, and stunned by the scenery of the Andes Mountains, he then sees something that genuinely takes his breath away; the lost city of the Incas – Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas

Back in the present, this lad finds himself working for Wex Photographic, taking regular walking trips with his colleagues, and discussing the possibilities of a big adventure. The final piece of the jigsaw falls into place when this chap (ok, let’s cut the flannel – it’s me) comes across a request for people to trek the Inca Trail in Peru in May 2010 to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. The cause is particularly pertinent for me as last year I suffered a heart scare, where I was rushed into hospital and kept there for a few days. Fortunately everything turned out to be ok, but the expertise and dedication of the staff who looked after me left me wanting to give something back. It was perfect, a no brainer – our grand adventure was planned.

The plan

Of the four regular trekkers, one of us has family commitments, & another is serving with the TA in Afghanistan, leaving two of us to take up the Peruvian challenge. Who are we? We are Ben Weeks (me) and Daniel McMahon, two outdoor-loving gents from Wex Photographic looking for a bit of adventure and the chance to raise funds for a worthy cause in the process.

We've even made it into the local paper!

The British Heart Foundation is the nation’s heart charity with 3 vital focuses:

  • Investing in pioneering research: The BHF fund around 1,200 projects investigating all aspects of heart disease - from causes and safer drugs to improving surgical techniques.  They invest over £137 a minute on research to keep the nation's hearts healthy.
  • Supporting and caring for heart patients: The BHF fund BHF Nurses who visit heart patients with all types of heart conditions in their homes - there are over 400 BHF Heart Nurses caring for patients across the UK.  They provide defibrillators and echocardiograph machines for hospitals, emergency services and first-aiders.
  • Providing vital information to help people reduce their own risk of dying prematurely from a heart or circulatory related illness: The BHF produce publications, videos and other materials for health professionals and the public including children. They inform people about how to improve the health of their heart through public information campaigns, advertising and the media.  Over 1,620 Heartstart UK schemes teach people what to do in an emergency. More than 1.6 million people have been trained by Heartstart UK in schools and the community.

The preparation

We will be walking from Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca civilization and one of the highest cities in the world at 3400m above sea-level, to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Inca’s high in the Andes mountain range. The trek is long and hard, involving steep ascents, descents and undulating terrain. Parts of the trail are very narrow with sheer drops to the side, while the high altitude can make breathing difficult and the temperature at night very cold. It will be tough, gruelling, and most of all a fantastic experience and a great way to raise money and awareness for the BHF.

Because of the “tough" and “gruelling” aspects of the trek, training is a must. We walk, we cycle, we even climb (at an indoor wall – in flat ol’ Norfolk your options are limited) and whenever possible, we get into the hills and trek, even if the weather makes it… uncomfortable.

On a training trek in the Lake District

The other part of the preparation for this trip is fundraising. We need to raise a certain amount of money for the British Heart Foundation to take part in the trek, and this has certainly been the most difficult part so far.

We have managed to raise a fair amount from friends and family, and by auctioning donated items, such as a sugar craft Christmas cake and a Nintendo Wii console. However, what people really want to see is humiliation. As such, it was only going to be a matter of time before we found ourselves doing something “unpleasant” in return for sponsorship.

Daniel volunteered to have his head shaved in exchange for donations. Vicky, our Contact Centre manager was the lady on clipper duty, and I don’t think it would be wrong to say she seemed to enjoy it!

Not wanting to lose my magnificent mane of ginger locks, I rather foolishly offered to have my chest waxed. Those of you who are of a nervous disposition may want to look away. Those of you who get pleasure out of others’ suffering and humiliation might just like this.

Incidentally, it was my 8½ month pregnant partner Emily doing the waxing and without a shadow of doubt, she got a huge amount of satisfaction from it. We managed to raise a total of £150 through these endeavours and I’m reliably informed that the hair will grow back…

The challenge

With less than 4 months to go, the training continues and the fundraising becomes increasingly frantic. So, as you have no doubt realised by now, this is a hopeful plea to you, our generous WEX Blog readers. If you possibly can, we would be forever indebted if you could spare a few pennies to help us on our way.

In return for your good deed we promise to share our fantastic experiences and amazing photos with you, right here! If that sounds like something you’d like to see, then please, dig deep. It’s for a very good cause.

If you would like to make a donation to this fund, please visit

I look forward to sharing our adventures with you.