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Fundraise on the First: Upminster councillor pulls on her walking boots for Spanish adventure

PUBLISHED: 16:42 04 August 2015 | UPDATED: 16:42 04 August 2015

First Step's chief executive Mark Halls, Cllr Linda Van den Hende and First Step's service manager Charlotte Dickens

First Step's chief executive Mark Halls, Cllr Linda Van den Hende and First Step's service manager Charlotte Dickens

Archant

Scorching hot weather and a gruelling distance of 62 miles await a councillor as she takes on a fundraising challenge along a legendary pilgrims’ route.

Cllr Linda Van den Hende with her sister Alison Eldridge while trekking the Great Wall of China Cllr Linda Van den Hende with her sister Alison Eldridge while trekking the Great Wall of China

Cllr Linda Van den Hende is walking the last 100km of the 
Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a picturesque journey through northern Spain.

She is taking part with her sister Alison and friends Mandy and Marie to raise money for First Step, where she is a trustee.

Cllr Van den Hende said: “My sister will be completing the last 100km with me and by that time she will have done the whole thing over a two-year period, in chunks.

“I have trekked with my sister to China, Peru and Morocco before –she got me into it.

Cllr Linda Van den Hende with her walking boots Cllr Linda Van den Hende with her walking boots

“She had been talking about the Camino de Compostela and it seemed like a good one to do.

“It is going to be fun doing it with some of my best people.

“What more can you have in terms of the company? It is great.”

The group will need to complete the task in five days, as they have booked accommodation for each evening.

Cllr Linda Van den Hende trekking across Morocco Cllr Linda Van den Hende trekking across Morocco

But having tackled some daunting challenges before, Cllr Van den Hende hopes this route will be easier to tame.

She said: “It will be relatively flat, compared to the Great Wall of China and the Inca Trail.

“But we are doing it in August, which isn’t the best time, so it will be a different type of challenge.

“I do the Havering Walking for Health every Sunday for usually five or six miles and I have done a few longer walks with my friends and sister.

Cllr Linda Van den Hende taking part in an abseil down the YMCA's building in Romford Cllr Linda Van den Hende taking part in an abseil down the YMCA's building in Romford

“I also go to the gym and swim so I would say I’m reasonably fit, but I think the longest we have to do in one day is 17 and a half miles, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it will be in the heat.”

Cllr Van den Hende, a ward councillor for Upminster and member of the East Havering Residents’ Group, has completed a number of challenges for First Step, of Tangmere Crescent, Hornchurch.

Her Moroccan trek raised more than £2,600 and she has abseiled down the Romford YMCA building in Rush Green Road six times.

She became a trustee for the charity in 2008 after she was encouraged to apply by trustee Colin Coe, who she knew from being a Rotarian.

The councillor was successful in her application and has supported the charity in its work ever since.

She said: “One of my previous jobs was setting up disability training in the police service.

“When becoming a trustee was suggested to me, it seemed like a good idea.

“It is very humbling to see how the parents and children cope with their special needs and disabilities.

“First Step is a happy place; it is not depressing at all and is very positive and uplifting, with lots of laughter.

“The staff are brilliant with the children – I have seen a few of them grow from being quite withdrawn to happy and more communicative children.

“It is amazing.”

To sponsor Cllr Van den Hende, visit justgiving.co.uk/lindascamino.

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