“I have never embarked on anything so intrepid in my life, but it’s now or never!” remarked Les Shires, part time Shed Coordinator of the Men in Sheds Project in Port Erin. Standing in ‘The Shed’ surrounded by retired men working on various hobby projects, Les was referring to his upcoming 250-mile Everest expedition.
When I asked why he was doing it he shot back, “Because I want to show people that life can BEGIN at 65, not end when you retire!” Les has been the Shed Coordinator for the Men in Sheds project since October 2011. With the emphasis on retirement being a positive, active and fruitful experience, this project for retired men offers a sense of purpose, a chance to be creative, productive and contribute to society. The Shed is a place to learn new skills and share old ones – or as Les is quick to point out, “It can just be somewhere to come and have a cup of tea and a chat.”
Shed Chairman Graham Hall adds, “Members come from all walks of life and the bond that unites us is that we’re retired men with time on our hands that we’d like to do something meaningful with – be it working together on a community project or something of our own.”
So what is the ‘Everest Expedition’ all about? It is more than just a trek to raise money, although the team are looking to raise £30,000 in much-needed funds to expand the Men in Sheds project.
“All contributions will be very gratefully received,” says Les. “But the trek is also about promoting the idea that life really can begin once you retire and that if you stay fit and well there are so many new things to try and places to go”.
The four-week, 250-mile trek from Kathmandu to Everest base camp begins on 23 September. It starts at 1,200m above sea level and finishes at 5,500m.
Les says, “I am funding the trip myself and if I get back I will donate £100 to Men in Sheds – so of course they are all very eager to see me return safely!”
The Island’s Men in Sheds have become a victim of their own success. They have outgrown the ‘Shed’ – a double garage owned by the Department of Health which really only comfortably accommodates around six people at any one time.
“We need funding in order to be able to offer more space and activities, and reach out to more men who might be struggling in retirement,” explains Graham Hall. “We would also like to work with younger chaps; those that are in danger of leaving school without valuable life skills. There is so much that they can teach us too – for example, computer skills. Eventually we would like to expand the project beyond the south by creating another Shed in a different part of the Island.”
Les will be blogging and emailing his sponsors throughout the highs and lows of his great trek – and you can follow his adventures on Facebook at Men in Sheds Isle of Man.