The Perse School

Perse student treks Great Wall of China for diabetes research charity

8 Nov 2018

John Hayward (Lower Sixth) completed a gruelling trek along the Great Wall of China to help raise funds to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

At the age of three, the Perse student was diagnosed with the condition, but he has been determined not to let it get in the way of living a full and active life. So much so that, along with his father Chris, he decided to take part in an arduous five-day hike along the iconic Great Wall during half term to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The challenge included a climb of 1,000 steps to reach the wall itself and a trek through 11 watchtowers to the Heavenly Ladder, which included another 460 steps up a 45-degree gradient, as well as helping to carry out repairs to a small disused section of the structure.

John’s father raised more than £15,000 for JDRF from walking across Iceland a decade ago and he wanted to join his dad on another fundraising adventure. So far, the pair have raised around £6,000 for the cause from their Great Wall walk.

Preparation involved going on 10km walks together with their dogs to build up physical fitness, while for John, it was also about making sure he learned how best to manage his condition, especially in terms of diet.

He said: “A lot of this ended up being guesswork because it’s not an exact science. It was a new experience for me because there are lots of foods you don’t get so much over here. It was working out how it would affect me and about trying not to overdo anything.”

John described the trek as “an absolutely amazing experience” and even more challenging than he expected it be.

He said: “Firstly, the wall is built on difficult terrain, so you’re walking up and down large hills and mountains and dealing with diabetes in this way wasn’t something I’d had to do before. That was a challenge for me but I got through it in the end.

“One of the main highlights was seeing the less tourist parts of China because we were going out on the wall and staying in these small villages with no other real way in or out. It was just a completely different experience to anything you’d get here in England. The views were breath-taking as well. Pictures don’t really do them justice.

“There were a few moments both physically and with coping with diabetes where some of the days were long and gruelling. Getting up at 6.30am the next morning and carrying on walking wasn’t always the easiest. Sometimes I might have misjudged something with the diabetes and trying to deal with this, while keeping going and not slowing anyone else down was tough.”

However, John and his father were part of a 45-strong party raising money for different causes. John felt this helped him get through some of the harder parts of the journey.

He said: “Everyone there was so nice and welcoming. If you ever felt down or were struggling with anything, there was always someone there to give you a smile and encourage you and give you the push you needed to keep going. It was just an absolutely amazing experience.”

To donate to John’s fundraising effort, please visit his Justgiving page here.

Listen to John talk about how he deals with Type 1 diabetes and the work of JDRF below.

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