Charity doesn't have to begin at home - it can begin on your holiday. Mike Gerrard looks at fun ways to raise funds
British charities look set to raise at least pounds 500,000 this year through fund-raising hikes and bike rides, allowing people to have a holiday and feel worthy at the same time. From Morocco to Moscow, from Iceland to the Great Rift Valley, travellers are being encouraged to combine the trip of a lifetime with sponsorship deals that raise cash for their favourite charity. It's a holiday trend that looks set to expand, with some charities, such as the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, already preparing their 1998 events.

"Our first event this year has been so successful," says Nick Chetwood, the GDBA's fund-raising projects officer, "that we've already got three trips in the planning stages for next year. There will be trekking in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco in June 1998, then in November cycling down the Nile - not literally but down one side and up the other. Then late in 1998 we will be doing a trip to the Sinai Desert."

The GDBA's Russian cycle ride in August, the first such event it has organised, is already full, with 100 cyclists set to raise about pounds 80,000 for the charity. Only marginally behind that figure is Oxfam's joint hiking and biking trips to the Middle East, according to its events co-ordinator, Victoria Fanthorpe. "We have about 50 people booked, and each one will raise about pounds 1,300 for Oxfam after all the expenses have been met, so that's roughly pounds 65,000. It's certainly a good amount to raise, but at the moment we're looking into how effective it has been in terms of the time and expense that has been put into setting it up. One worry is that there are increasing numbers of this kind of thing, and I do wonder if perhaps we are all trying to attract the same sort of people and will reach a limit. But we are very positive about it, and we do think there's huge potential in it."

The NSPCC saw the potential last year when its first fund-raising trek to Tanzania raised pounds 30,000. Its 1997 target is to double that, and so far it is on course, according to media officer Gerry Tissier: "We've already got 15 people booked and another 15 seriously interested, so we're well on the way as we don't leave until September. Last year we only had 30 people, so we're hoping to double it."

At the same time they're halving the challenge, as in 1996 travellers were asked both to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and endure a 100-mile trek through the Great Rift Valley, but this year there's a choice.

"It was OK," says Tissier, "... if you were in the French Foreign Legion. But for the average person it was a bit tiring. It's hot and dusty with a layer of very fine dust that's like walking through talcum powder. It's an amazing experience, though, as you're walking in this wilderness where there are no tourists and you're accompanied by the Masai who live there."

If there's any trouble on the NCH Action for Children's Big Bike Ride, people will no doubt be looking to three of the actors from The Bill to help out. Simon Rouse, Iain Fletcher and Andrea Mason (aka DCI Meadows, DC Skase and WPC Keane) have been recruited to accompany the 250-mile bike through the Holy Land, which sets off next Saturday. Eighty people have booked, with an estimated pounds 200,000 raised in sponsorship.

For the charities it obviously raises funds, but why do people do it? "People enjoy fund-raising," according to Nick Chetwood, "especially for guide dogs, and this also sets them a challenge."

"In Oxfam we're in a unique position," claims Victoria Fanthorpe, "because we also work in the areas we're visiting, so we can combine the holiday with fund-raising and at the same time show our supporters some of the projects they are helping, specifically a weaving project in the Negev Desert and some work we're doing with deaf children in Jordan."

"People are looking for more adventure," says the NSPCC's Gerry Tissier. "They like the idea of combining it with raising funds for a good cause. It's actually a good price for a holiday of this type, and in addition you end up climbing an active volcano, which the Masai call the Mountain of God, so that adds something to the experience. But basically it's a good holiday in a good cause."


NCH Action for Children, 250-mile ride from Jerusalem to Elat, 15-23 March, pounds 2,000 (0171 226 2033)

Oxfam, Jordan/Palestine/Israel bike ride 29 March-6 April, Hiking Trail 12-20 April, pounds 2,100 (01865 312146)

Cancer Research Campaign, Anti Atlas Trek, 16-23 May and Iceland Cycle Challenge, 31 May-7 June, pounds 1,995 (0171 887 8225)

NSPCC, Trek Tanzania, 19 September-5 October, pounds 1,995 (0181 441 9592)

Guide Dogs for the Blind, 1997 St Petersburg to Moscow bike ride is full, but for 1998 details contact GDBA Holidays (O1539 735080)

Scope, the Russia Bike Away, 1-10 August, St Petersburg-Moscow (0345 697969)

This Friday, 14 March, is Comic Relief Red Nose Day. If you're unable to join in a fund-raising holiday, why not send something to Comic Relief instead by ringing their donation line: 0345 460460