I’m going to level with you – I am an absolute coward. I hate rollercoasters, cycling on the roads, and daddy long-legs. But I’ve always believed that while fear isn’t something to celebrate, it’s also not something that should ever stop you from doing things. Afraid of spiders? Go pick one up! Afraid of dogs? Take one for a walk! Afraid of heights? Throw yourself off a 130 foot high building!
In September this year, six people offered to abseil down Belfast’s Europa Hotel in order to raise money for the RSPB. I was one of them. Not because I particularly wanted to abseil a distance of 130 feet, but because I wanted to push my own limits and let the RSPB reap the benefits. I didn’t exactly raise millions, but fundraising was easy thanks to JustGiving.com (and some very generous family and friends).
Don’t get me wrong – it was terrifying. Trying to tell my brain that it was ok to step backwards off a building when it knows that it’s a blatantly stupid thing to do wasn’t the easiest hurdle to cross, but somehow I managed to make the final step and found myself standing on the side of a building. It’s an odd feeling. I mean, you know you’re perfectly safe (one instructor above you holding the safety rope and one below you ready to catch you if you plummet), but it’s hard to escape the feeling of helplessness and vulnerability.
(that's me on the right!)
As I started to descend, I was being blown from side to side by the strong gusts of wind, which made me more determined to get down fast. At one point I dared glance down and was amazed at how high up I still was, despite having been descending for hours (or so it felt!)
All in all, I’d say it took me close to ten minutes to descend and afterwards I felt a massive sense of achievement. And a new found respect for terra firma. Then, as I reunited with my fellow adventurers and my heart rate returned to normal, I realised that I had done something worthwhile.
We really rely on people to help us raise vital funds for our work right across the RSPB and here in Northern Ireland we’re always looking for volunteers to fundraise on our behalf. Whether it’s taking part in a challenge event, holding a coffee morning, or helping out with a bucket collection – every penny counts. Community fundraising contributes around £1.5m to our conservation work each year, so it makes a massive difference.
The abseil was the first in a series of “challenge events” that we’ll be organising here in NIHQ. The next is a “Festive Freeze” - a chance to get a surf lesson from professionals at Portrush beach. There are still some places available, so if you’d like to take part, or would like more information, get in touch!