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The Finish Line

The LPUK Arctic Challenge team have arrived at their final destination, Overlord! Debra Searle greeted the team at the finish line and said:

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“I am so proud of the team having pulled through such extreme weather conditions and made it successfully to the end. Numerous Inuits have told us that the conditions have been unusually severe for April. The scars on their bodies are evidence of that – they look like real polar explorers with peeling faces and frost-nipped fingers! Thankfully, all of those injuries will heal with time and their sense of achievement will continue to grow as they process all that that they have achieved. I feel blessed to be here (albeit on crutches!) to celebrate with them.”

Thoughts from the team…

Louise Goodall:
“As I leave Baffin Island today my overriding emotion is one of gratitude: to LeasePlan for allowing me this once in a lifetime experience, my wonderful colleagues in BC&IT who have supported me (I am very humbled), the luxuries of sitting on a chair, running water and a warm bed and the magical island and people of Baffin. With mixed emotions, I say goodbye to Baffin – I will miss her but am looking forward to coming home. ”

Charlotte Edney:
“We have travelled over icy land and sea, all because of diversity. A heavenly hell of head winds of 80 miles per hour or more, pulling our pulks with hands and feet so sore.

Though our trek has been tough, hard and a struggle, we powered through with our team support and occasional cuddle. The finish line crossed and the biggest challenge of my life complete.”

Janine Lemon:
“It was really emotional waving goodbye to the team on 8 April but I was blown away by the response from colleagues, friends and family – who were radiating such pride for the team.

So to find out that I would be joining the team for the final straight was just amazing! To see their faces when they arrived and the look of realisation that not only was Kimberley there but that Emma, Debra, Steve, Stef and I were in Baffin Island was priceless… and the hardest secret to keep! I’m so proud to work for a company that really are serious about gender diversity.”

Ella Petch-Stewart:
“Wow what an absolutely incredible and amazing journey we have all been on. We conquered the Arctic in -40 and did it smiling from ear to ear.

I am so very proud to have inspired so many people. I feel very privileged to have been part of LeasePlan UK’s diversity initiative and want to thank them and thank all the people who have helped us on the windy path to success.”

Emma Virgo:
“I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet the team at the finish line and share this amazing experience with them. It has been such a special and life changing experience for us all and still doesn’t quite feel real. I’m so so proud of the team and how they have overcome all obstacles in their way to achieve their goal.”

Sam Carlin:
“Despite our extensive preparations and expert guidance, none of us could have anticipated the reality of spending 10 days and nights on the ice. The day to day challenges were extreme and we all had moments of fear and self doubt. However, I was blown away by the determination of the team to not only complete the challenge but to appreciate every moment. The stunning scenery and strong team spirit carried us along and we never forgot how privileged we were to be there.

It is a cliche but it really was life changing for me. Baffin Island will be with me forever and I’m so grateful to have been part of this amazing challenge.”

Kimberley Day:
“Well what a journey! Being one of the 12 chosen was the best feeling ever and I was so excited to be going on such a fantastic trip. The aim was to walk 100km but someone somewhere has other ideas and after roughly 100 yards my ankle gave way and put an end to the physical side of the journey. I am so proud of my colleagues for completing the journey and whilst I am devastated I did not cross the line with them, I was certainly there to meet them and experience the end to what has been an varied and challenging journey for all but in such a different way.”

Anisha Sudra:
“Pride is what is currently flowing through me. This once in a lifetime journey will remain treasured for life. Nothing could have prepared us for the emotions, experiences and scenery we were going to feel and see. Each moment of this journey will be cherished. This journey was amazing as we had a fantastic team of women who were all inspirational in different ways. Some days were very tough but team spirits remained high and would very quickly change the mood to positive.

When the finish line was in sight, we were all holding hands and the best surprise at the finish line, Kimberley, Emma, Janine, Debra, Stef and Steve. I won’t forget the smiles and tears of joy at the finish line. We made it! This life changing journey would not have been possible without the support of our friends, families, Debra, Hayley, Black Feather Guides, Andrew the bear monitor and the endless support LeasePlan has given us and the campaign. Thank you LeasePlan.”

Rebecca Whittaker:
“I was bursting with pride as we crossed the finish line arm in arm, and feel so privileged to have been part of the LPUK Women’s Arctic Challenge.

I can’t thank LeasePlan and Diversity Ambassador Debra Searle enough for giving us this unique, once in a lifetime opportunity.

The trip has inspired and ignited the spirit of adventure in us all, and long may the magic of The Far North remain within us.”

Mel Sanghani:
“To have our reserves, Debra and Steve meet us at the end was amazing. It completed the challenge for us all.

It was the life changing challenge we expected and I am really grateful for having the opportunity to complete it with such a great group of women who worked so well together and supported each other and for LeasePlan to give us this amazing opportunity. It was cold, hard but amazingly beautiful and above all it was epic!”

Sue Cashmore-Thorley:
“This really has been an adventure of a lifetime and I am so very grateful to have been a part of this amazing journey with a very special and unique team. It was the hardest of challenges and also the most rewarding.

I am very proud to have supported this important Diversity message which showed what a group of ordinary women can achieve through hard work, determination and a dash of bravery. It has been a huge privilege to be involved.”

I would like to say a big thank you to all who have supported our team of 15 in succeeding with this fantastic achievement – Debra Searle MBE, our families, friends & Colleagues, our photographer Hayley Barnard, our Personal Trainer Holly Sears, our NLP expert Sue Knight, our Expedition Guides at Black Feather and of course the fabulous LeasePlan!”

Viv Bowra:
“It’s been an amazing experience and a privilege to be part of such a unique journey. It’s heart warming to hear so many are following our trip – those who know us (and despite that!) love us and those who only have a very loose connection to us but who are still supporting us.

I hope we’ve done them proud by plodding on in extreme conditions and enjoying every moment.”

Jo Miles:
“We have spent 9 days battling the elements and feeling so tiny in the vast wilderness. Seeing those familiar faces at the finish line was fantastic and the messages while we were away were so valuable.

The Arctic landscape has been magnificent: every colour, sun glinting on the ice and frozen waterfalls. We are now enjoying relaxing and taking the time to absorb all we have experienced.”

Leela Bassi:
“The experience on this trip will remain with me for life, not only for its beauty and extravagant surroundings but also for the plethora of gadgets we have and we take for granted on a daily basis.

I will talk to my children and grandchildren about this journey as an inspiration for them to carry the message of diversity through the world for years to come.”

Carrie Knox:
“Snuggled under a warm blanket in our lodge in Pang. It’s 6am and I have just climbed back into my warm dry bed after sneaking a hot cup of tea back there to reflect on my past 9 days and nights living on the snow…

Tears of laughter, pain and joy. Digging deep, thinking strong and being strong. Understanding that others are doing the best they can, however, that is demonstrated on the ice. Supporting others but ensuring I do all I can and need to do to stay strong and get through this.

Walking head on into blizzards. Frozen bodies, fingers and toes. Not allowing myself to think of home and family when things got really tough. I did that once and did not stop crying all day – I learned not to do that again. Instead I visualized making and cooking my favourite meals to push through each kilometer.

Now it is over – I have done it – and I have the biggest smile in my tummy. I am proud of myself and the team of LeasePlan ladies that fought through the challenges of the Arctic to promote diversity.

I now can’t wait to see my beautiful 4 year old daughter in a few days time at Heathrow. Already a small force of nature, this challenge has also been about being a strong role model for her – the next generation that will bring the diversity message a further leap forward.”