Our CEO Susanne Legena started her new role in the best possible way, on a trek in Sri Lanka to support our work with girls. Here she recounts her adventure.
I booked in to do the Sri Lanka Trek for Girls in late 2017. I felt a bit flat, I needed a reason to get physically fitter and wanted to raise money for a cause I believe in.
Little did I know that when the time came to leave I would be Plan International’s new CEO. I found out on the Tuesday and left on the Thursday that same week.
What a brilliant way to commence a new job. I met the crew in Colombo and thought ‘what better way to start this role than to spend 10 days with fabulous Plan International supporters visiting our work in the field?’ I wasn’t disappointed.
First up was the physical challenge of climbing 10,000 steps up Adam’s peak. My training hadn’t prepared me for how steep and large the steps were. Many times I wondered if I could actually do it – and each time my new found friends plied me with food and encouragement. You climb a mountain one step at a time and you just keep going. Good training for a new CEO too. We left in darkness so as to arrive at the summit at sunrise and we weren’t disappointed. The view of the sun rising, flags waving and the crowds (yes crowds endure this walk as a pilgrimage) was one I’ll never forget. But now to get back to town?! The trip down the mountain and the walk back to our hotel was hard, I’m not going to lie, but the breakfast was most welcome.
We travelled across the country to the East Coast to Batticaloa to visit Plan International’s work. We were briefed by the team and met some young men training to be motorbike repairers so they can start their own business. A few of us teared up. Some people had been supporting Plan International longer than they’d been married – more than 20 years – and had never seen the work first-hand. It was wonderful to see this life-changing work in action.
The following day was International Women’s Day. We visited another Plan International supported vocational teaching college teaching tailoring, early childhood, hospitality and food preparation skills. We got to talk to some young women and their teachers about why learning skills is so important. The young women talked about being able to work and support their families. I remember all the girls when asked what they’d do with their first pay packet said “Give it to my mum.” It was a really special day to see where our fundraising dollars will be spent.
Then we travelled up the coast and saw elephants in the wild and visited some of the ancient temples that Sri Lanka is famous for. We ate great food, had wonderful local guides – we trekked in incredible locations in the mountains including at one point walking through a field of butterflies. A highlight was having a home-cooked meal at the house of one of our guides, eating Sri Lankan curries and overlooking one of the highest waterfalls in Sri Lanka.
I couldn’t recommend this Plan International Inspired Adventure trip enough. They talked me through the fundraising – none of us were professional fundraisers but some used a significant birthday to raise funds and others organised small events with friends. It really wasn’t that hard and it was wonderful to visit Plan International’s work in the field. We made great memories and good friends out of the trip.
If you need a boost and want to do some good in the world, consider joining our next adventure, Trek the Inca Trail in Peru for International Day of the Girl in October 2019. Find out more here.