The magazine of the photo-essay
November 2016 issue
from the Matterhorn to Mount Etna
A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous! Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
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The Virgin STRIVE Challenge: From the Matterhorn to Mount Etna, entirely under human power. In September 2016, a core team of 25 people travelled from the Matterhorn to the summit of Mt Etna under human power to raise money for Big Change, a social impact accelerator that invests in big ideas to help young people thrive in life not just exams. Big Change was founded in 2012 by six friends including Sam Branson, Holly Branson and Princess Beatrice of York. The organisation backs solutions that offer alternative ways of supporting young people by finding, incubating, and and connecting powerful ideas to the people and support that can make change a reality. These ideas focus on providing the skills, opportunities and support needed for young people to thrive in life. One of the themes that runs through all of Big Change’s project partners is the idea of a growth mindset – instilling in young people the resilience they need to be able to face challenges and grow from them, rather than shrink. We all face challenges – it is how you are equipped to deal with them that determines success and the Virgin STRIVE Challenge embodies that philosophy - that growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone and the extraordinary can happen when you do it with others.  Striving is about embracing the journey – learning from setbacks and failure, supporting each other, having that ‘growth mindset’. This photo essay shows the physical and emotional journey that was taken by the 25 core team members, as well as 250 STRIVERs that joined them along the way, to raise money and awareness for Big Change this past September.
The team plots out the first leg of the journey on the map; a 95 kilometre hike from Zermatt to Rima San Guiseppe, Northern Italy.
Upon arriving in Zermatt, the team was reminded of where they left off on the last STRIVE Challenge -  the summit of the Matterhorn. The challenge ahead would see them hike from here to Northern Italy, cycle the entire length of the country, swimming the Straits of Messina and summiting Mount Etna under human power.
Noah Devereux & Sam Branson, the founders of the Virgin STRIVE Challenge, pose with Richard Branson, Holly Branson and Karl Lokko – a poet and ex-London gangster turned activist who works closely with Big Change.
Hikers set off on their journey towards Italy, and the trails only became more challenging!
Big Change and STRIVE co-founder Sam Branson hugs a teammate upon completing the first leg of the challenge. The next three weeks would see the team cycling 2,000 kilometers down the hilly coast of Italy.
Core Team member Sally crashed on her bike in the second cycle stage, but luckily was not injured and was back in the saddle immediately. This year’s challenge was not easy, and many participates had to push through physical and emotional pain to reach the finish line. Throughout the month, many people pushed themselves to their personal limits.  
A tired STRIVER cycles down a narrow Italian road near the end of the second cycle stage. 
Once the team reached the tip of the boot, the next step was to swim across the Straits of Messina. The distance of the Straits at its narrowest point is 3.5 kilometers, but due to tides, the core team swam over 4. It was a day that the team had long been anticipating, and a particularly challenging one.
With the swim complete, the team began to mountain bike down the coast of Sicily towards Mount Etna.
Even after 25 days on the road, Sam still had the energy to be pulling wheelies.
Following the two days of mountain biking was the run to the summit of Mount Etna. It was split into a 14 kilometer trail run to the base of Etna, and a hike to the top. Big Change team member, poet, and activist Karl Lokko nearing the end of the run on the way to the base. 
Shattered from 14 kilometers of running up hill, STRIVERS set off in groups towards the summit of Mount Etna.
The group making progress towards the top of Etna, which is 3,350 metres in elevation. After 27 grueling days travelling down the country under human power, STRIVERs were feeling emotional about approaching the finish line.
Co-founder of the Virgin STRIVE Challenge, Noah, hugs a teammate upon officially completing the month-long journey.
Holly, Richard and Sam Branson happy to have reached the summit together.
photographs by Adam Slama
Sam and Noah standing at the top of Mount Etna, holding the Big Change and Virgin STRIVE Challenge flags proudly.
The Virgin STRIVE challenge may have just been one moment in time to bring together like-minded people on an epic adventure to raise money for Big Change’s work, but it’s philosophy runs deep through the charity as well. It is only by taking risks, working together, and stepping outside of their comfort zone that they will be able to create a better system to support young people to thrive in life, not just exams.
While the end of September marked the end of the physical challenge, this is only just the beginning for Big Change.
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