Sarah WeldonSarah Weldon

Sarah’s career began at the age of 16 when she left school to become an Outdoor Pursuits Instructor for the Bendrigg Trust in Cumbria, working with young people who were disabled or disadvantaged.

Whilst working for the Bendrigg Trust, Sarah took an Open University degree in Psychology and after volunteering with anacquired brain injury service and mountain rescue team, developed an interest in climbers with head injuries and how damage to the biology of the brain can affect a person’s behaviour and personality. As part of her Open University masters module she undertook research into medicinal plants in the Amazon jungle and so began her first adventures to the Arctic, desert, and under the sea.

Sarah has since acquired over 17 years employment in the National Health Service and Social Services in the fields of developmental neuropsychology, emergency medicine, and scuba diving medicine. As a Cognitive Neuropsychology student at Birkbeck College she worked full time at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and spent time at sea as a Midshipman in the Oxford University Royal Naval Unit. Sarah is a keen scuba diverwith BSAC and PADI and an IMCA Diver Medic Technician.

In 2001 whilst researching maternal and child health in the urban and rural slums of south India, Sarah developed a neurological condition called Guillain Barre which took 18 months to recover from. During which time she vowed never to take her health for granted again and to start living in the present instead of always planning ahead and being sensible or worrying about the ‘what if’ scenarios. This new philosophy opened up further adventures and she has since worked in the Caribbean in public health medicine, and spent three years in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia teaching English to Police Officers, Government Ministers, Security Guards, and school children.

Sarah now has the perfect job as Founding Director of her own charity and is able to bring in everything she loves about life, from teaching geography and environmental science, promoting the outdoors and the oceans, to helping young people to find their own ways out of the difficulties they face. Learning to row is the first time that Sarah has done something completely new and which is outside of her comfort zone, but in doing so she hopes that it will encourage others to step beyond their fears, whether that is going to a gym for the first time, or starting the first day at a new school.

Having been a member of the Royal Geographical Society for a number of years I loved listening to talks about other people’s adventures and thought to myself ‘I wish I had the opportunity or guts to do that’. Being in Georgia was a daily challenge and it wasn’t long before I realised that here I was, actually having my own adventures and that I was brave. We spent a long time following Roz Savage’s row across the Indian Ocean and it was the young people on Oceans Project Georgia who finally gave me the confidence to take a leap of faith. Not just with the ocean row, but in setting up my own charity and being my own boss, responsible for leading others, there were so many parallels. Before long I figured out that I just needed to focus on the list of things I could do, rather than trying to come up with excuses of why I shouldn’t.

Kate Gibbs

Kate Gibbs

Kate Gibbs

Kate is a Royal Navy Lieutenant currently serving onboard HMS ILLUSTRIOUS as an Education Officer. Kate is the only member of the team who has rowed before; as a teenager atHereford Rowing Club and as a student for Chester University, where she was men’s coach and 2004-2005 Women’s Captain.

Before joining the navy Kate was a primary school teacher. After leaving university she went to Hong Kong where she taught English and maths as well as a daily kindergarten class. On returning to the UK, she taught at Chalkhill School in Wembley.

In the navy Kate works as a Training Manager, the branch responsible for delivering and designing all training within the Navy as well as raising the education levels of people who serve in the RN. As one of the education officers on board, her main role is delivering maths and English lessons to personnel in order for them to have the correct educational qualifications for promotion. On leaving ILLUSTRIOUS, she will move to a training establishment where she will train other instructors. It is this job she will be leaving behind as she rows across the pacific for the first leg of the journey between Monterey Bay, California and Honolulu, Hawaii.

I’m very lucky to have such an understanding employer. Fitness within the Royal Navy is paramount as is sport, adventurous training and team building. When I asked my career manager for the time to do this row, he was very much onboard. I can only come back from this a stronger person.

I believe that my training and experience of leading people in stressful situations, under physical and mental pressure will help me get through this challenge, and hopefully I’ll be able to encourage the other girls too. My resolve may falter at times, but I will never give up.

Lizzie Williams

Lizzie Williams

Lizzie Williams

Lizzie, has recently graduated from Oxford Brookes Universitywhere she studied English Literature. She really enjoyed and excelled in her course, although now ‘with the world at her feet’ needs to decide in which direction to channel her energies. As a person with a wide range of interests and hobbies, Lizzie has tried her hand at a number of different things including surfing, tennis, horse-riding, musical theatre, piano, singing, and long-distance running and cross country. She’s therefore more than happy to get stuck-in and give pretty much anything a go!

Lizzie was on the committee of the Oxford Brookes Running & Athletics Club and describes her numerous adventures with the club as one of the best aspects of university. For her, one of the highlights was a trip to the Isle of Man at Easter, where the club took part in the annual Running Festival which – over 3 days – involved a 10k road race, a hill race, an 11-mile pub crawl, and a 5km relay…in Smurf outfits! Being involved in the training and various competitions has fuelled a keen desire to keep fit as well as the hunt for a new challenge.

Relishing any opportunity to travel, in the summer of 2012, Lizzie was lucky enough to embark on a trip to Sri Lanka for six weeks, where she volunteered as an English teacher and worked in a home for people with special needs. This experience was both challenging and thoroughly rewarding, and has definitely sparked an interest in teaching and education that Lizzie would like to pursue.

Lizzie and Sarah’s paths only crossed recently but she quickly realised that Fourbirdsaboatingpresented an opportunity not to be missed, and is an entirely different direction to her fellow graduates. She is incredibly excited to get on-board with the project, if you’ll pardon the pun!

My Dad is a GB rowing coach, so the time for learning how to row has been long awaited, although I’m not sure he quite anticipated the addition of the Pacific Ocean in to the mix! Nevertheless, I’m really excited to get involved as a member of the support crew and reserve/training partner for the Birds. Bring on 2014!

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