Ten young people. Nine months of training. Two weeks of cycling. One team. The group of Bath Rugby Foundation HITZ students trained weekly throughout across 2019 to prepare for a 300-mile-long cycle through the Chilean Andes alongside ten mentors.
Across two gruelling and rewarding weeks, the participants covered the miles and – more significantly – forged lifelong friendships across the generations.
Bath Rugby President John Hall launched the Andes Challenge with the intention of bringing together a group of mentors to share their rich life experiences with young people. It was life-changing for everyone involved.
The nine months of training included spin classes, fitness and endurance training, countless bike rides in all weathers around beautiful Bath countryside. The programme built resilience, connections and personalities.
As John described: "They’re young people who’ve not had the best start in life, and what we wanted to do was build their self-esteem, build their confidence and give them something that will help them throughout their lives."
Each student had their own reasons for taking part – some to learn about leadership and fitness, some to take on the endurance, some to discover they can achieve what they set their mind to – some simply to force themselves into the outdoors, or to learn how to ride a bike.
But every single person had something in common – they wanted to challenge themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. And every participant did what Todd urged them on the first day in Chile:
“I’ve got butterflies. But I’ll take the butterflies and turn them into dragons.”
The Andes Challenge represents a living example of what unlikely friendships, diverse backgrounds and innovative ideas can foster and create.
Through the President’s Lounge, we can create more opportunities for people like Todd and Stan, who found purpose and pride through the Andes Challenge and the Foundation because someone took the time to believe in them and encouraged them to believe in themselves.