NOvember Challenge 2020: what it meant to me

Dec 10, 2020

This is a guest post from Beyond the Streets supporter Abby, who was a fantastic challenger in our NOvember campaign where we asked people to STOP. PAUSE. WALK. RUN. for the month of November 2020. Thank you Abby for all your support and for writing this blog post!

2020- well….frankly, who hasn’t had some difficulties this year? I lost my job, my romantic relationship ended, I sold my home and moved to a new area, spent 5 months homeschooling a teen with learning difficulties through GCSEs, and all this in amongst the collective trauma and fallout of a global pandemic. And yet, I still consider myself to be very lucky. I have a house, general good health, skills to fall back on, people who love me and look after me, and a hold on how to keep on top of my mental wellbeing with access to a regular counsellor. But it has been very much on my mind that not everyone is in that position. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to support Beyond The Streets for their NOvember 2020 campaign.
For a few weeks prior to the challenge, I had been doing daily walks to help keep my mental and physical health in check. Every morning, I would head down to the Estuary near my new home and enjoy the sunrise, and each time I would take a new route back which in turn helped me discover my locale. It was the logical decision to set myself the challenge of walking 150 miles- 1 mile for each pound I hoped to raise. By the 1 November I had hit my £150 target and was ready and raring to go, sharing photos of some of my silly walking gear in the online support group. This group became such a lifeline to me, giving me hope, encouragement, advice and inspiring me with their own challenge stories. I mapped out how much walking I would need to do on each day and tweaked it in the first week- 10 miles in a day was just too much but I could certainly do 7 miles on 2 or 3 consecutive days! By 15 November I had already done 85 miles, discovered beaches, marshes, ancient woods, parks and industrial estates in my new region, and I was set to complete an additional 50 miles having taken some time off work to do so. I took two days off to rest as planned but then 2020 threw yet another spanner in the works- on Tuesday 17 November I got the dreaded call to self isolate. 14 days at home, no walking permitted.
I can only imagine the difficulties that this pandemic has had on those who are in exploitative situations. The fear, isolation and precariousness must have been magnified a thousand fold. I imagine this can be an absolute tipping point into a potential downward spiral of familiar yet unhelpful coping strategies. It’s why I wanted to ensure that the essential work done by Beyond the Streets continues, so that more and more women can be supported out of coercive, controlling and traumatic environments. I spent a day considering how to finish the challenge, all the while looking at the friendship bracelets made by women in India who have been helped out of prostitution that I and the other fundraisers had received as part of the challenge group.
For me, walking had become my route back towards mental wellbeing, but this mental wellbeing has to be accompanied by physical wellbeing. Thankfully for the challenge, there were four strands to take- so I opted to take up two different strands for the rest of the month. STOP drinking alcohol (a harmful coping mechanism I have) and PAUSE to do yoga every day (helping me keep my exercise regime up). I also did some dancing every day as I know this also raises my spirits! And goodness me- people really wanted to show they were still on board with the cause. By 30 November a whopping £630 had been donated to Beyond The Streets. People genuinely got the cause, understood the plight of women to escape sexual exploitation and understood that they need specialist support to do this. It’s entirely apt then that I should finish by thanking Beyond The Streets, not only for the essential work they do to support women out of sexual exploitation, but also for the support and encouragement they gave to everyone raising funds on the NOvember 2020 challenge, and for helping me to remember how to keep my own mental health in check.