For years, she had watched from the sidelines, encouraging and supporting others during their climb; the urge to join them, always there, but silenced due to a niggling fear that settled. This year, it was different; everything had changed. Lockdown had taught her that uncertainty overshadowed every moment, that she could no longer watch from the sidelines and be content. If she wanted to climb Mount Snowdon, she needed to act now.

And so she did.

Meet Cho, a courageous 26-year-old who, beside her newly found love for climbing mountains, finds delight in cuisines from all parts of the world. 

Cho didn’t conquer her fear alone, however, but with her closest and dearest friends by her side – one of whom had a broken ankle! Together, they climbed, overcoming their fears, all for the sake of children within HHUGS households. 

Cho’s drive to challenge and inspire others around her, stems from her love to fundraise and help others – a path she embarked on almost ten years ago when she began her volunteering journey.

“Fundraising has become a great part of my life (well, that’s also because I’m actually now a fundraiser by profession) but this all started when I volunteered for a charity when I was 16. I didn’t fundraise as such but volunteering in admin gave me insight into what it could be.”

Cho’s journey of volunteering, then developed into a profession. It was then where she had her first taste of fundraising and the realisation of her ability to meet and exceed targets she set.

“4 years later, I ended up working for another Muslim charity and that’s when I did my first fundraiser for a hike. I discovered that I met my £300 target within a few minutes after asking my contacts – I was overwhelmed and beyond happy to know I had potential to do this. I then sought out a role as a full-time fundraiser and Alhamdulillah moved to another charity where I grew and developed. I currently work for the great charity HHUGS and I am excited to see what I can do with fundraising here. My experience overall has been phenomenal and have been able to exceed targets by the will and mercy of Allah.”

Cho is an avid fundraiser. Her drive to help others, is matched by her energetic and charismatic nature, a great mixture when fundraising. However, she does it solely to offer opportunities to those who are less fortunate. When asked what inspires her to fundraise, she responded:

“Seeing the ease it brings to the beneficiaries’ lives and homes. Seeing the children be given the same opportunities our own receive and be given the chance to flourish and grow up without the stress of poverty.”

Initially the trek was not intended to be a charity challenge. However, Cho, true to her nature was unable to do a trek without some added benefit to help others.  At the same time, HHUGS were running their Back to School Campaign, and was short on hitting the target. Cho decided to fundraise and as a team, they raised £2,173, which exceeding the shortfall for the campaign target.

The Snowdon trek was a memorable one for Cho and her friends; a true embodiment of striving together for His sake, all whilst having fun and creating memories.

“The experience was phenomenal. It’s one that I’ll never forget. It was just amazing to do something so challenging with a great group of friends. We had a huge laugh throughout (not counting on the way down because we were exhausted!). It was a tough challenge, though. Half way, I gave up and kept begging to go back down. No one would let me. Probably the downfall of having amazing friends who won’t let you fail! Alhamdulillah, thanks to them I could summit. I did cry! Just a little bit, before the summit. Had to let out my emotions somehow on how exhausted I felt.”

The mutual support and encouragement throughout the trek helped them get through to the very end.  One of the friends who joined Cho was 26-year-old, Nadafia, a social therapist and first year Counselling Psychology student. Without Cho’s encouragement and enthusiasm for the trek, her friend, Nadafia would have missed out on the opportunity.  When asked, what inspired her to do the trek, she responded:

I have a one word answer here. Cho. This girl, SubhanAllah! The charisma and energy for the work she does oozes out of her and it’s pretty infectious to be honest. And my friend Jeba, my girl did a whole mountain trek and a waterfall trek on a bad ankle, please what would even be my excuse lol?? Alhamdulillah for companions that inspire us!!”

Nadafia speaks of her own experienced during the climb, and the array of emotions she experienced throughout:

“Well, generally I think I experienced every emotion climbing up and then down that mountain, ranging from pure excitement to moments of despair!!  But saying that, I’d do it all again because it was worth the pain. Mind you, I probably don’t consider trekking up a mountain in wellies a good idea at all. It took 15 minutes to get them off.”

The journey of the trek, for the group of friends, was an emotional yet joyful one; the sense of accomplishment they felt, knowing their efforts were helping children in HHUGS households, was immense.

“I was actually proud of all of us for completing it. A proper sense of accomplishment on so many levels, Alhamdulliah.”

The climb offered both Cho and her friends the ability to have a real impact. They decided to fundraise for HHUGS, as they believed in the unique nature of its work.

“In all my years of experience in the sector, I did come to realise the true meaning of “charity starts at home”. Thousands of charities exist to help the deprived across the world but so little exist to help the community and families on our doorstep. I think we tend to forget that the Prophet (pbuh) encouraged us to help our neighbours and communities and that they have a right over us. I’m still learning as I go along, but so far, I can see and feel the barakah in bringing ease to families in my own country that I live in, Alhamdulillah.”

Cho, along with her friends, are an inspiration to us all. Even with the fear of climbing hanging over her, she encouraged and supported her friends in joining her. Together, through tears and laughter they completed the trek and exceeded their limits. She has taught us that, even within these uncertain times, we can push ourselves beyond our comfort zone, to have an impact on those within our own communities.

Although we are faced with restrictions, due to the lockdown, we can still emulate Cho’s drive, and challenge ourselves.   We have various virtual challenges for you to get stuck into this Winter, including our 120 Challenge, the Warmer Winter Challenge, or Bake it For HHUGS. We asked Nadafia whether she will also be taking part in HHUGS’ Winter Challenges with her friends. With confidence, she responded,

“Absolutely!! Each and every one of them if I can. I can’t bake though, so I’ll spare everyone the torture of having to consume that.”

Cho is one step ahead, having since raised over £3000 in the past six weeks towards HHUGS’ WARM HHUGS campaign.  And today, she starts her latest venture – and perhaps her greatest sacrifice yet: no dessert for 120 days!

Frankly, torture for someone who not only loves her desserts but works in a dessert parlour at weekends! She explains why she has decided to do “the craziest of things in my life“:

I spent two weeks going back and forth with myself and wondering if I should or shouldn’t. In the end many people messaged to say they’ll sponsor me if I go ahead with it. Please make du’a for this miskeen soul.

I need the strength and resilience to get through these tough months. For those who know me, and even those who don’t, but know my addiction via social media, you know it’s going to be seriously tough for me. But my small sacrifice is nothing compared to what these families go through every year. This is tougher than climbing Mount Snowdon and you all know how I cried at the end of that. This is more than that. And even if you don’t know me, hopefully you’ll understand how painful this will be. But I pray this sacrifice gives four families ease this whole winter in sha’a Allah. In sha’a Allah, it’ll be accepted from Allah.”

You can encourage Cho and make her efforts all the more worthwhile by sponsoring her here.

Join them, in keeping families warm this Winter