Nurses saddle up to ride from Vietnam to Cambodia for Northern Ireland hospice
Two nurses are taking on the challenge of a lifetime this week as they prepare to cycle from Vietnam to Cambodia in support of the Northern Ireland Hospice.
Friends and work colleagues Michele Gordon and Mary Rose Scott, who are both 56 and from north Belfast, have worked for the hospice for more than 50 years between them.
They were inspired to undertake the challenge after signing up for the Hospice's Cycle to Work Scheme in August 2018.
They say they are determined to complete the eight-day challenge this week, covering 400 kilometres, to meet their fundraising target of £7,000 for the hospice.
The pair will set off with a group of around 20 other UK-based fundraisers from Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam today and will finish at Cambodia's famous Angkor Wat temple next week.
Since taking up cycling over a year ago, Mary Rose and Michele have always been interested in completing a fundraising challenge for the hospice.
They are already accomplished runners, having previously completed the New York Marathon and Great North Run.
Mary Rose, a mother-of-three, said: "When we got the bikes last October we felt we should do something in aid of the hospice and naively I thought of a wee sponsored cycle to Bangor but that turned into Vietnam and Cambodia after the trip caught our eye.
"We've been training extremely hard to prepare for the event by cycling in the evenings and during the weekends, heading off to Bangor or Newtownards.
"We have also taken part in cycling events such as Lap The Lough event around Lough Neagh back in August, which is the longest event we have done so far and was over 90 miles.
"A few weeks back we completed the Carlingford Loop and the Cycle Against Suicide around Belfast.
"We are always just trying to do something to keep our stamina up for the big journey that's ahead of us this week.
"We're very excited about the cycle but we know the biggest challenge will be the humidity.
"That will be a bit different from what we're used to but we are determined to complete it."
Mary Rose added: "Michele and I are very fortunate to be able to work with an experienced multi-disciplinary team providing high-quality, person-centred and compassionate palliative care to our patients.
"We know first-hand the difference donations make to NI Hospice so are encouraging everyone to support our challenge and help us continue to deliver this specialist palliative care to local people who need it most." To help reach their fundraising target, the ladies, who are both members of Belfast Ukulele Jam, hosted various events over the past few months, These included a concert by the Hospice Ukulele Band, a '70s/80s disco at Cliftonville Bowling Club and a musical evening in the Duncairn Arts Centre.
Michael Nugent, regional fundraiser at Northern Ireland Hospice, added: "We're delighted that the ladies are undertaking this challenge. It costs over £15.5m per annum to fund NI Hospice services every year.
"We wouldn't be able to provide local people with specialist palliative care without fundraising events like Michele and Mary Rose's."
The ladies have set up a JustGiving page where people can donate to their challenge. To donate, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mary-rose-scott