Our Springboard trekkers return

Author: Joanna Flood
Date: May 15, 2024
Category: News

Springboard trekkers

Operations manager Shaun Warren, head of creative Sam Wakeham and development chef Eamonn Flaherty have just returned from a wilderness adventure like no other!

The trio set off to Cambodia for an 11-day life changing experience, building eco bungalows in a small village in Siem Reap, followed by a 100km trek in blistering 40+ degree heat. Money raised from the trek will go to Springboard, a charity helping people with barriers to employment to start their hospitality career.

Now they’re back, we caught up with them to see how they got on:

What made you want to sign up?

Shaun: The opportunity to do something I’ve never done before. I haven’t been so far away from home and my family before, so I knew it would be a challenge. I have a huge passion for the hospitality industry, and I wanted to give something back.

Eammon: I’ve worked in hospitality all my life so to be able to take on such a challenge in aid of Springboard seemed like a no-brainer.

Sam: My Dad used to live in Cambodia and I wanted to give back to the people and communities out there that I grew up hearing about. I’m also approaching 30 so what better challenge to take on!

What prep was involved beforehand?

Shaun: I’d done so much running and walked a marathon the weekend before I went, so I felt I was in my prime! But I realised when I was out there, I hadn’t trained myself on drinking enough and eating the right types of food. My reserves were so low; I should have gone three stone heavier!

Eammon: I joined the gym and was running five days a week and lost a couple of stone as a result. Mentally I felt great too, but no one could have trained for the heat we experience out there; it was a gamechanger.

Sam: I walked 15-20k on weekends and two months before I was making sure I was walking 5k in the morning, lunchtime and evenings to get as many steps in as possible. As Eammon said, I wasn’t prepared for the heat though. Maybe I could have done some squats in the sauna!

What activities did you do in the local community?

Eammon: We arrived in Cambodia on the Saturday morning and went straight to the community project, building an eco-bungalow in Siem Reap. We were chopping straw to go into the brick mix, up to our knees in mud stamping to make the concrete for the bricks. It was really hands on! The plan is for the Cambodians to use it as a holiday home to get an income from.

Sam: None of us had slept. When we got off the plane, we were all delirious and the heat was like walking into a sauna! After the community building project, we visited a local school and played field games with over 30 children: a heartwarming experience. We all brought with us toys, sweets, books, clothes, and other goodies to hand out to other children in the community too. The next day, we went to a temple and got blessed by monks. They gave us all red bracelets that symbolise good luck. We visited a local forest to support the stopping of deforestation in Cambodia, a growing issue in the country, where we planted mango trees and built roofs from palm leaves for their buildings in the forest. We also got to experience a homestay, where we stayed with local Buddhist families. The accommodation was just the essentials but amazing all the same. We slept on mattresses on the floor with mosquito nets and had to squat over a hole in the ground for the toilet, using a bucket as a flush, the same water we washed in which was an experience!

What did the rest of the trip involve?

Sam: We trekked 100km, through rice fields, forests, and local villages, including the Phnom Kulen mountain. It took us 6 days – it was no mean feat! But what an experience. We also visited local communities, temple ruins and finished the trek with a sunrise to remember at Angkor Wat!

Eamonn: The trek was physically challenging, and the conditions were mentally challenging. We were drinking 8 litres of water a day with electrolytes for energy. We had a great team of cooks that went ahead of us to set up camp and cook. We ate a lot of rice, beef, chicken, soup, and even fermented eggs! The fruit was delicious – mangoes, pineapple, lychees, all freshly cut from the trees.

Shaun: The trek was a real challenge for me as I was in and out. Sadly, on day 2 I was admitted to hospital and put on a serum drip, from exhaustion and dehydration. I did elements of the trek and then spent some time in the van to rebuild my energy reserves. We camped outside for four nights in the sweltering heat. The first site was quite built up with a nice shower, but they got progressively worse! By the end we were camping by a river – no running water and the toilet block wasn’t built. I did find myself shouting “I’m a celebrity get me out of here!” but no one heard me!

What was the hardest part?

Shaun: For me, definitely the trek. I didn’t eat or drink enough in the heat, which took its toll on my body.

Eammon: Day one we were trekking through the rice fields which was quite flat, but when we started to climb the mountain clambering over rocks, that was the toughest point for me.

Sam: Day three of the trek, I suffered from a bad stomach, probably because I didn’t know what I was eating, drinking, or washing in!

What was the single biggest highlight?

Sam: The children and their smiley faces. They just wanted to hug and kiss you. I also loved seeing all the temples and learning about the history of Cambodia and all the temples, including Angkor Wat, the Hindu-Buddhist temple.

Eammon: The homestay. We got emotional when we left the families. We also did a sports day with the local school with egg and spoon, and sack races. It got competitive! Seeing the smiles and joy on their faces is a memory that will live with me for a long time. On our last night, they cooked us a meal and we all had a dance. I also celebrated my birthday when I was there. Everyone sung happy birthday to me, and I got to wake up to a Cambodian sunrise – it was a very special birthday. I enjoyed it so much; I didn’t really want to come home!

Shaun: It was really humbling to see people that have so little in terms of possessions be so happy, friendly, and grateful for life. Their cooking was so simple but was made with love and tasted so nice. I’ve come back with a completely different outlook on life, it’s honestly changed me as a person. I went with a competitive mind, but I’ve come away with so much more. My soul feels happy.

What was one thing you learnt about yourself?

Shaun: That I’m grateful for everything I have back home. I also want to add that I’m so grateful to BaxterStorey for funding the trip and giving us the time off work. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Sam: Realising how fortunate we are. Also knowing when you put your mind to something, you can do it. I was nervous about going, but everyone was so lovely. I had the time of my life and would go back in a heartbeat!

Eammon: I learnt so much from the Cambodians, from their commitment to religion to their appreciation for what they have. I’ll think twice about moaning about the slightest little thing.


Together, the trio raised an incredible over £11,958 for Springboard – an epic adventure for a worthy cause!