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Fundraising target reached by adventurers Dwayne Fields and Phoebe Smith after daring hike across the Highlands

By Federica Stefani

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Phoebe Smith and Dwayne Fields stopped at the Inverness Courier's former home on their 1,300km hike across Britain from Dunnet Head Scotland to Lizard Point, Cornwall. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Phoebe Smith and Dwayne Fields stopped at the Inverness Courier's former home on their 1,300km hike across Britain from Dunnet Head Scotland to Lizard Point, Cornwall. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Two British adventurers who crossed the Highlands as part of a 1,300km on-foot fundraising journey across Britain have reached their fundraising goal and are looking for 10 young people to undertake the trip of a lifetime.

Dwayne Fields and Phoebe Smith, known for their solo exploits, embarked in their Seabirds to South expedition in 2019 to raise funds for their #WeTwo Foundation to take a group of ten underprivileged young people to the Antarctic Peninsula by expedition ship in February 2022.

The duo, who started off their challenge in Dunnet Head were supported by the local community of the Highlands on their way south, is now looking for 16 to 18-year-olds to join what will be the world’s first carbon negative expedition of its kind.

“Despite the pandemic, thanks to the generosity of those who have given to our crowdfunding cause, as well as the sponsors and partners who have come on board, we have raised enough to change the lives of 10 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds,” they said.

Their goal is to change society’s image of the typical explorer and use responsible adventuring as a force for good.

“We've been told by several organisations that considering our backgrounds we should ‘know our place’, and been advised to take the young people to Dartmoor for a weekend, but that is missing the point,” said Ms Smith.

“To them Antarctica is a place beyond their wildest dreams,” said Mr Fields. “The ultimate stage for adventure and one that has - for the most part - been the domain of the privileged few, certainly not a place where people like them would ever be encouraged to aspire to go. We want to boost their confidence and show that we believe in them enough to take them somewhere they never thought they'd go. We want them to fall in love with nature and wilderness and understand the relationship between what we do here in the UK and how it affects Antarctica (and vice versa) so that they will fight to protect it.”

“Finally we want them to see other career paths that they may never have considered before,” Ms Smith added. "On board will be biologists, ornithologists, geologists, mountain guides and people that they will never have had the confidence or opportunity to chat with before.”

Before the young people go they will 'pay it forward' – not with cash but by committing to take part in initiatives close to home to improve their local area. This will include rewilding projects, removing plastics from saplings, helping clean rivers, beaches and green spaces, they will also share with others (through talks and social media) the incredible nature and environment that's on their doorstep, becoming local ambassadors for the environment.

The entire team with be planting enough trees to ensure that their trip to Antarctica will be 100 per cent carbon neutral and, in time, carbon negative. But there are even more measures being taken to ensure it’s as green as can be.

“The ship we have secured places on is Hurtigruten’s MS Fridtjof Nansen one of the world's first hybrid expedition vessels, meaning the carbon footprint is the lowest it can be – 20 per centless carbon is produced than in usual ships,” said the team.

“They also have a heat recovery system so that waste heat from engine cooling water is used to keep everyone warm.”

“We’ve also teamed up with Craghoppers who, as well as sponsoring four places on the trip, will be kitting out the entire team. They are committed to sustainability and are ensuring that all of the kit we use is made from recycled materials and is responsibly sourced.”

Once on board the team will be assisting with a number of citizen science projects including Seabird Distribution with the Antarctic Site Inventory, tracking individual whales and leopard seals and studying phytoplankton to better understand how they respond to water temperature changes in the polar regions, providing a key to help mitigate future environmental impacts.

“Raising the money was challenging, especially during a pandemic,” said Ms Smith, “but perhaps even more challenging is going to be finding the young people to take with us. That’s why we’re appealing to the public to help us out.”

The team has launched a nomination form on their website where teachers, social workers, parents, guardians and friends from across Britain can nominate a young person from a disadvantaged background to take part. “We are looking for people who are driven, passionate, and who want to make a difference, not just in their own lives but for the communities in which they live,” said Mr Fields.

Two of the young people will definitely be Scouts. The Vasey Family Trust has donated enough to support two places so that the trip that Shackleton attempted to make, 100 years ago this year (in which he pledged to take two Scouts with him, but sadly never completed), will finally be realised.

“We are so very grateful to all our supporters – it’s because of them we can make this ambitious plan come to fruition,” said Ms Smith. “We are determined that this inaugural trip to Antarctica, will be the first #WeTwo Foundation journey of many.”

To nominate a young person, go to www.TeamWeTwo.com and complete the pop-up form.

The team said they would love to offer more than 10 places – if you are interested in sponsoring contact them through the website or go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/wetwo.

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