Herts businesswoman’s Arctic Circle survival challenge raises £5,000 for family support charity

PUBLISHED: 11:34 17 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:34 17 February 2020

Claire (middle) with two of her fellow adventurers. Picture: Courtesy of Claire Austin.

Claire (middle) with two of her fellow adventurers. Picture: Courtesy of Claire Austin.

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A businesswoman and philanthropist has completed a survival challenge in the Arctic Circle, raising more than £5,000 for family support charity Home-Start Hertfordshire.

The team constructed a natural shelter to sleep in on day two of their survival phase. Picture: Claire Austin.The team constructed a natural shelter to sleep in on day two of their survival phase. Picture: Claire Austin.

Claire Austin, managing director of Austin's Family Funeral Directors - which has branches in Stevenage, Letchworth, Hitchin, Knebworth, Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City - has just returned from the harsh wilderness 150km south of the Arctic Circle, where temperatures can range from −34°C to 0°C.

During intensive training, Claire and seven other intrepid explorers learnt how to get around, find food, light fires and build shelters.

The team then had to survive for three days in the hostile environment, including constructing their own accommodation for each night - a Scandinavian tent, a natural shelter and a snow hole.

For the snow hole - known as a quinzee - a candle was lit in the chamber all night to ensure there was plenty of oxygen for the eight adventurers, and the survival team went on hourly shifts to check the candle stayed alight.

The eight-strong team all completed the Arctic Circle Survival Challenge. Picture: Courtesy of Claire Austin.The eight-strong team all completed the Arctic Circle Survival Challenge. Picture: Courtesy of Claire Austin.

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By taking on this epic challenge, Claire has raised more than £5,000 for Home-Start Hertfordshire.

The charity supports families who have at least one child under the age of five and are struggling with disability, poverty, mental illness, multiple births - the list goes on.

There are currently 124 trained volunteers - all parents themselves - giving one-to-one support through home visits to 127 families, with a waiting list of 64 families.

Claire watches to ensure the oxygen-providing candle does not go out while the rest of the team sleep in the snow hole. Picture: Claire Austin.Claire watches to ensure the oxygen-providing candle does not go out while the rest of the team sleep in the snow hole. Picture: Claire Austin.

Claire said: "Thank you to all my friends, colleagues and the many strangers who have donated to Home-Start Hertfordshire in support of my efforts. Your contribution will make such a difference to struggling families in our community. Of course, it's not too late to donate at uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ClaireAustinHope."

Home-Start Hertfordshire's strategic manager, Suzy Moody, said: "We were delighted to be Claire's chosen charity and the incredible amount she has raised will go towards providing life-changing support for five families, for approximately six months, who are currently struggling to cope.

"A massive thank you to Claire and all her generous supporters who donated."

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