The Hebridean Cycle Challenge: a fundraising and public engagement campaign
Caitlin Duncan is a 2nd year PhD student working on precision medicine within the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation. She’s in charge of social media for the Institute’s latest public engagement campaign, which she tells us about in this guest blog post.
We are Rheumatosphere, a group of researchers working on various forms of arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases (MSDs). Our latest public engagement adventure takes our team to the Outer Hebrides, where we will also cycle the 185 mile Hebridean Way. This is sponsored via a grant awarded by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). They represent patients, health professionals and scientists, and have recently launched a campaign called “Don’t Delay Connect Today”. This campaign aims to raise awareness of early diagnosis of MSDs. Early diagnosis has profound benefits including better treatment outcome and limiting joint erosion, which will amount to a much better quality of life for those affected.
We’ve chosen to take our public engagement campaign to the isles of the Outer Hebrides for a variety of reasons. We are lucky in Glasgow to have access to many fantastic public engagement events, however that is not always the case with people living in much more remote areas. The symbolism of the ferries and causeways connecting the mainland to the isles and the isles to each other will allow us to portray the ‘connect’ message of the campaign. We also plan to utilise our time on the ferries engaging with as many members of the public as possible, educating them about the campaign.
The Outer Hebrides is home to the beautiful Hebridean Way walking and cycling route, which we aim to complete in 4 days to add an extra dimension to our public engagement. To make this challenge even more exciting, we have partnered with the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) who provide invaluable support to people from all over the UK affected by rheumatoid arthritis. We hope the challenge will raise lots of money for the charity and we have now launched our Just Giving page that you can visit at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rheumatosphere.
The route is exciting, and we hope you are going to follow our journey along the way. In case you’re not sure if the scenery really is THAT good, or if the cycle way really is THAT exciting, here’s a summary of our journey. We start by driving from Glasgow to Oban, passing some of the nicest scenery on the West Coast along the way. From Oban, we’ll board the 5 hour ferry to the little isle of Vatersay. The cycle will then take us through Vatersay, Barra, Eriksay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Harris and Lewis. Some of the highlights along the way include Traigh Mhor beach on Barra (which is also the only beach runway in the world having daily scheduled flights!), the Calanais Standing Stones on Lewis, Luskentyre beach on Harris, as well as the Isle of Harris Distillers. If you do follow our journey (which you should!), please let us know of any hidden gems, beautiful views or good pubs to visit along the way.
So, what’s the main motivational factor behind this challenge? The privilege for fundraising for an amazing charity we believe in. We are also grateful to have the possibility, as researchers, to share our work with the public. Another enjoyable aspect is getting fitter and spending time outdoors, and some of us have really taken to our bright and early training sessions on Saturday mornings! If you see us out and about in our team t-shirts please say hello!
What I’ve learned so far is that cycling is fun and gives us a different way to socialise with friends. As PGRs we often become stressed and don’t always know how to give ourselves a break, so with the summer months approaching there is no better time to try a new sport or get involved in some fundraising for a cause important to you. You might try take part in a public engagement event. This will not only be a welcome break from your daily work, but it can remind you why you chose your research area and provide some inspiration to take back with you.
We will be busy over the coming weeks as our event is fast approaching. If you want to find out more about how we’re getting along, and follow our journey, please follow us on our social media platforms. You’ll find regular training updates and details of other fundraising events leading up to the main challenge!
Facebook: Rheumatosphere DDCT
What about you? Do you have any challenges, fundraising or public engagement events planned in the next few months? Let us know in the comments below or via Twitter at @UofG_PGRBlog!