My Little Duke

Every Life Matters

Steph Duke

“I knew we were in trouble months ago when a prominent journalist said she absolutely accepted the unborn was a baby, but that she felt a woman’s right to choose trumped that fact.

I waited for the outcry. Someone had just said that a baby must die to facilitate an adult’s choice. There was none. I felt an indescribable chill. The next generation is our hope, not some kind of choice.”

Once again I find myself drawn to the laptop, furiously typing what is burning on my heart. I’ve avoided this all week. But all week I’ve been burdened, my heart heavy. I never planned to blog about this. If anything, I was going to put a few thoughts on my stories on Instagram – that way the criticism could come privately – as indeed it will surely come - one way or another. I’m not confrontational by nature. I crumble in debates. I struggle to articulate myself when I’m challenged or under pressure … but writing it down … that I can do. I think. I’m going to try.

If you’ve spent any length of time around here you will know that my faith is important to me. And if I claim to be a follower of Christ I should aim to mirror his way of life. This is something I’m not particularly good at. I’m working on it, but I far too often set my own agenda. There are times however, when the Holy Spirit prompts and stirs something within me. When I get that feeling that just doesn’t go away. When I can’t sleep or think properly until I do what I know I need to do.

I need to speak.

I must speak.

So here I am, trying to pen words that I hope are gracious, yet speak truth. Words that will challenge, yet speak life. Much like my friend Laura (read her post here) I also have to be brave. My intentions are not to offend or cause trouble, just to share my personal thoughts and things I’ve read.

Last weekend I drove around the streets of Sligo as Ireland voted to repeal the 8th amendment. In a landslide victory, people celebrated unlimited access to abortion up to 12 weeks and permission to abort up to 6 months in other limited circumstances. As I drove, I read sign after sign – bombarded with the extremes of either side of the campaign. My heart sank. The repeal the 8th campaign seemed to tick all the boxes. Language was carefully curated to dehumanise the campaign and focus on women’s welfare - trusting women with making the right choices. By shifting the focus off what is unseen - what is weak, helpless, voiceless … and turning it to what is seen, known and tangible - our “sister, mother, friend” - it’s visual; easier to accept and agree with. It is too easy to forget who is sheltering in the darkness, desperately needing a voice too.

When the announcement was made I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I avoided reading news stories and tried to accept the decision, but every day since my eyes have been drawn to a number of articles and information that I can’t ignore.  I cannot claim to follow Christ and not stand for what he died to demonstrate … love. Love for all. I cannot stay silent because of love. Who is showing love to those without a voice? Those who are in the hidden and quiet place. Who is standing up for our unborn babies? Who is protecting them and their constitutional right to life? Their choice is being taken away in the most inhumane manner. I watched crowds dancing and rejoicing over the fact that women are going to have the choice to kill the most vulnerable in our society. Is this ‘women’s rights’? Is this how we show women compassion? Want to show women compassion and love? Then lets physically do it. Lets not offer abortion as a fix to the problem. There are other options. We need to be making these avenues of help and support clearer to our women, not promoting the choice to end a life as a solution. The people of Ireland have said they “want to live in a country that treats women with compassion”. Where then is the compassion for those aborted baby girls? Those future women?

I watched a moving speech recently by abortion survivor Gianna Jessen. For 18 hours she was burned alive in her mother’s womb from a saline abortion. She miraculously survived and gave this speech at Parliament House in Australia. She gave her testimony saying, “If abortion is about women’s rights, what were mine? My life was being snuffed out in the name of women’s rights.” I drove home from Sligo feeling alienated and afraid for the future. I’m a mum of one daughter. My mother’s heart grieves for those beautiful unborn babies who have already been lost and for those - who under the new law – will never see the light of day. “It is a battle between life and death,” Jessen continues – “which side are you on?”

After the repeal victory Irish politician Taoiseach Leo Varadkar commented, “We trust women, and we respect them to make the right decisions for their healthcare…” But surely healthcare looks after both mother AND baby - it doesn’t terminate one of them? Is this detachment from the real human issue at hand? Undoubtedly, women must be looked after. Women deserve all the help available so that precious second life is given a chance. I’d have to agree with Dr. John Monaghan that, “abortion ends lives. It is not healthcare”, and my heart breaks for any poor woman who has been, or is caught in a crisis situation - I’m so, so sorry. I’m not writing this out of a place of judgement or condemnation, but to simply speak up for those with no voice. 

In her article in the Irish Times, Breda O’Brien replies to the suggestion that the Ireland moving forward is now more tolerant, open and respectful. She writes:

“Ireland is unrecognisable. It is a different place – a place with a heart closed to the ones who will die because they are not deemed human enough to be protected. And a heart closed to the thousands of women who wish they lived in a society that cared enough to tackle the profound injustices such as poverty that force women to choose abortion, rather than proposing the ending of a life instead.”

There are bigger issues of injustice that we all know need addressed, but choosing abortion shouldn’t be promoted as the solution.

Yes, we are now moving towards a more liberal Ireland, but at what cost? In his article, ‘Ireland Regresses; Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ David Robertson comments:

“Let us suppose that you supported the right to abort a child – would you not regard it as a ‘necessary evil’ and mourn the fact that it had to happen at all? In a civilised society, even if you regarded abortion as necessary, would this not be a day of solemnity and sorrow – even if you had received what you called the right vote? But to dance in the streets because you had just given mothers the right to kill their own unborn child is not civilised. It is barbaric. Rather than progressing into being a more tolerant, open and respectful society, Ireland has regressed over 1500 years into his pre-Christian pagan past, where the weakest members of society are not tolerated and not respected. They are destroyed.”

Let me conclude with a quote from Mildred Jefferson. Jefferson fought against racism and sexism to become the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School in 1951 and the first woman of any race to intern in Boston City Hospital. She said of abortion:

 ‘I am at once a physician, a citizen and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have the right to live.’

The onus is now on me. Am I willing to stay silent and avoid risk of criticism/hatred/confrontation? If so, I might as well pack my bags and call it quits on all I stand for and believe as a follower of Christ. More than ever before I need to pray for this country. I felt a chill as I read the placards saying ‘Northern Ireland – you’re next.’ Your Kingdom come Lord, your will be done is the cry of my heart. That God, you move and minister across our land in a fresh way.  Pour your love and mercy on us as we seek to lift your name high and speak your truth in love. Every life matters - compassion for mother and for baby in all circumstances is possible. Aborting our children shouldn’t be proposed as the only option. Just because they are hidden from view doesn’t mean they deserve this. So I’ll speak for the most vulnerable and I hope you’ll allow me to express my opinion just in the same way the ‘YES’ supporters were able to express theirs. I also respect your decision if you disagree.

Matthew 25 v 40

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


Disclaimer: Please note that any quotes included are not my own personal thoughts/words.




Walking the Wall

Steph DukeComment

For weeks I worried, stress levels were high and my anxiety was on overdrive. As Sunday May 20th approached I had nothing else on my mind except the Mourne Wall. I was completely consumed by fear.

The day before I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t concentrate on anything other than the challenge that lay ahead. I wasn’t naïve about this hike; I knew full well that this was a trek that I wasn’t physically capable of. I hadn’t trained enough. I wasn’t at a level of fitness that I needed to be to give myself a good chance of completion. But, I knew I had to give it a shot. This charity is too important to me. I remember coming away from the information night and knowing in my heart of hearts that I was going to walk the wall.

Fast forward several weeks and I was packing my rucksack, hands shaking and heart pumping. My knees had been strapped and toenails cut. The alarm was set for 3.30am and having checked and re-checked my list, I headed for bed. But sleep wasn’t to come. I tossed and turned and watched the hours tick by. I think I finally fell asleep around 1am, only to be rudely awakened by my alarm. This was it.

Some of the team arrived at 4.20am and we waited, chatting nervously about what we were about to attempt. I kissed Matt goodbye, holding back tears and mentally telling myself to just get on with it. Our drivers arrived shortly after and we were on our way. There was no going back now.

  04.15am - ready to go!

04.15am - ready to go!

The drive up was a sombre one. The rain steadily increased as we came close to the Mournes. The clouds hung low in the sky, almost threatening us as we dared to take on the challenge. I began to pray. There was no way we would make it if the weather didn’t ease. As the rain hammered against the windows I pleaded with the Lord.

On nearing the car park, the sky began to clear and the rain began to soften. We unloaded the cars and pulled on our waterproofs. I was taking no chances of getting wet early in the day. We secured our backpacks, took a group photo and headed off from Carrick Little car park towards our first big climb of the day. 

  6.20am - Carrick Little Car Park

6.20am - Carrick Little Car Park

At this point I was mentally focusing on just taking on one mountain at a time. The thought of covering 15 peaks in 15 hours was too overwhelming. Slieve Binnian was up first. We made a steady plod up the wall to the summit, taking one or two breaks. The weather was kind - it drizzled on and off, but no heavy showers. Group morale was high and everyone was glad to get the first peak ticked off the list. We took a quick break at the summit to take on some fluid and snacks. 

  7.20am - top of Slieve Binian (747m)

7.20am - top of Slieve Binian (747m)

We moved on quickly and began our steep descent. The clouds had cleared a little and we could see beautiful views of Silent Valley below us and the route we would take. Wee Binnian was up next, just a little baby climb compared to what we'd just achieved. We walked a steady pace to the summit.

  View of Slieve Binnian from Wee Binnian

View of Slieve Binnian from Wee Binnian

  Wee Binnian selfie!

Wee Binnian selfie!

We then made our way through the drizzle and downhill towards Silent Valley where we would stop to grab a sandwich and use the toilet block! We'd walked almost 3 hours at this stage and everyone was advised to eat something for energy to do some steep climbing in the next section. Aside from the drizzle, spirits were high and there was plenty of chat. I was pleasantly surprised how good I was feeling - mentally and physically. 

  9.01am - Silent Valley

9.01am - Silent Valley

As we began our ascent towards Slievenaglogh the clouds ominously closed in, just in time for a damp trek through a rather unpleasant bog. Coming up and out of the bog, most of us had wet boots and poor Hilary ended up knee deep at one stage and with a wet bum! Both of my boots were saturated and I was praying that they'd dry up quickly so I wouldn't get blisters. Next up was a steep and misty climb to the summit of Slievenaglogh. 

  10.23am - Slievenaglogh summit (445m)

10.23am - Slievenaglogh summit (445m)

Following our descent from Slievenaglogh, we quickly began to ascend the first mountain that took us all by surprise – Slieve Muck. This wouldn’t be a popular hiking route so there wasn’t really a path to follow. This meant lots of scrambling over rocks, something my poor legs aren’t cut out for! It was a long and slow climb with lots of breaks. Our poor instructor kept being asked “are we nearly there yet?!” as we couldn’t see 2 feet in front of us on our ascent. It was probably a good thing that we couldn’t see just how far away the summit actually was! This particular mountain was the first one where I had to grit my teeth and dig deep, despite the burning legs. And this was when I first began to mentally grasp just how tough this challenge was going to get. 

  This climb was where the cramps and pains began for some of the team!

This climb was where the cramps and pains began for some of the team!

  12.05pm - Summit of Slieve Muck (674m)

12.05pm - Summit of Slieve Muck (674m)

On route to the next peak we stopped for lunch and a welcome break for everyone. The team felt positive and ready to take on the next few climbs. There was however, a general feeling of angst about one particular peak – Slieve Bearnagh! But there was still plenty of ground to cover before we’d get there and we didn’t stop for long. 

  One of @k8dawson's insta-stories from the day!

One of @k8dawson's insta-stories from the day!

The next few peaks were pretty relentless. No sooner had we descended one mountain and we were straight back on the incline again. Mentally I had to block out any negative thoughts about how far we still had to go and how on earth my legs were going to carry me! It was a case of taking each ascent individually and focusing on the feeling of achievement at the top. We trekked over Carn Mountain (588m) and on to Slieve Loughshannagh. There was no improvement in weather at all. The wind had picked up and we were battling gale force winds to make it to the summit.  Being so exposed to the elements only added to the challenge!

  13.19pm - top of Loughshannagh (619m)

13.19pm - top of Loughshannagh (619m)

  14.00pm - Meelbeg summit (708m)

14.00pm - Meelbeg summit (708m)

  14.42pm - top of Meelmore (687m)

14.42pm - top of Meelmore (687m)

On the descent from Meelmore we sadly lost one of our team members due to injury. A kind couple escorted Hilary down to her husband who would meet her and take her home. I was gradually becoming increasingly apprehensive as we approached Bearnagh, with the grim realisation that I was definitely now the slowest team member on the uphill climbs. I kept pace easily on the flats and descents, but I was beginning to struggle to stick with the group on the inclines … and Bearnagh the beast was next. I knew that if I could make it up Bearnagh, I’d get the morale boost I needed to keep going, but what a slog. I felt like I was miles behind the group and had to adopt a '10 steps, 10 second break' routine to get me to the top. I also felt like I was really lacking in energy on this ascent. Once at the top I planned to refuel. 

  15.50pm - Bearnagh's Summit (739m)

15.50pm - Bearnagh's Summit (739m)

Feeling sweet relief to have made it to the top of Bearnagh, I scoffed ¾ of a roll and some peanut butter chocolate. This was the first time I really felt tired though. It was a bittersweet moment. We’d conquered a mountain that we’d been dreading, but we knew we still had an awful long way to go. We’d been walking now for almost 10 hours and my body was screaming at me to go no further. There had been a point where the group had discussed the option of shortening the walk because of time/injury, but the pace had increased and we aimed to re-assess the route again when we made it to the saddle between Commedagh and Donard. 


As we began our steep descent off Bearnagh the clouds finally began to lift. There was mass whooping and cheering as we began to get our first views of the day (only took over 10 hours!) and we could see just how far we had come. It was an overwhelming moment for me. As my eyes turned right and spanned the wall from Binnian right across – up and down – the 9 peaks we’d trekked, I couldn’t quite take it in. Then I looked left and could see Commedagh looming and Donard in the distance and my heart sank. The two biggest climbs were now imminent and I was well past my best. Before we began the slow, steep ascent up Slieve Commedagh I quickly ate a banana as I still felt really drained and low on energy. 

  17.15pm - on the ascent up Commedagh

17.15pm - on the ascent up Commedagh

This was when everything changed for me. I stopped taking photos and insta-stories, instead channelling all my energy and effort into keeping moving. Every uphill step felt mammoth to me. By the time we climbed the more northerly Slievenaglogh I was pooped. I’d also ran out of water and was desperately hoping to get to the spring on Commedagh sooner rather than later. In this exhausted and desperate state I asked one of the team if I could take one of their energy gel sachets. Wrong move Steph. WRONG MOVE.

Not 15 minutes later my stomach began to tell me that it wasn’t feeling so hot. I felt queasy and lightheaded and I don’t know how I actually made it to the spring on Commedagh. I was lagging so far behind everyone that by the time I’d made it to the spring, there was just enough time for the team to fill my bottles and we started moving again. This was mind over matter now. My head was screaming at me, begging me to stop, sit and rest. I felt like I was going to vomit with every single step. When I finally did make it to the summit, there was no rest. We’d stopped at every other peak, but now everyone was on a mission to complete the challenge and get home. So as I reached the stile at the summit, everyone was moving onto the descent towards the saddle. This was a soul-destroying moment. I struggled over the stile and on wobbly legs began to descend. The group had stopped to take a picture and get psyched up for the final climb and all I wanted to do was cry. 

  17.52pm - top of Commedagh (765m) - This was taken on the move as the group were already on the descent. I couldn't smile. I didn't even post this on my   insta-stories. I felt wretched.

17.52pm - top of Commedagh (765m) - This was taken on the move as the group were already on the descent. I couldn't smile. I didn't even post this on my insta-stories. I felt wretched.

A few concerned faces asked me if I was ok and it took everything in me not to burst into tears. I began to lag behind once again as now even the descent was a struggle for me. The nausea was increasing and I began to get seriously worried that I might not make it. It didn’t help that straight ahead in full view was Donard – the highest and last peak of the day. 

  18.07pm - How was I going to make it to the top? This was the view of Donard (850m) as we descended down Commedagh. Almost 12 hours of walking.

18.07pm - How was I going to make it to the top? This was the view of Donard (850m) as we descended down Commedagh. Almost 12 hours of walking.

Having climbed Donard numerous times before I knew what was required to get to the top and I also firmly believed I couldn’t do it. Not feeling the way I was feeling anyway. So I panicked. I scrambled for my phone and called Matt. I whimpered down the phone to him while he tried to reassure me that I could keep going and told me to be sick if it would make me feel better. Backwards and forwards I went in my mind about whether I could/should attempt Donard or call it quits. Apart from our group there wasn’t anyone to be seen. I really had no choice. I had to climb. 

While the rest of the team refuelled at the saddle, I sat in silence. Disbelief, frustration and fear consumed me. I’ve never felt so isolated in my whole life. There was nothing anyone could do for me either. Sympathetic looks and encouraging words were little comfort. It was time. 

As the team began their ascent I told myself to just ‘try’ – I’d try to climb a little way up. There are steps for the majority of the climb up Donard so I began to slowly take one step at a time. I have never, ever moved so slowly up a mountain. Our instructor Jonny came alongside me and through tears I told him how unwell I was feeling - how frustrated I was because my legs felt ok but my tummy was in bits. Tenderly he encouraged me to just do a little more and then a little more. He tried to take my mind off the pain and reassured me that we’d make it and we weren’t that far behind. I didn’t look up and I didn’t look down. Everything was swaying, my breathing was laboured and heavy. 

Every 10 steps and I thought I’d vomit. It took everything in me not to collapse in tears. Somehow I just kept moving and as I approached the last ascent Jonny kindly took my rucksack. I could see two of the team up ahead just reaching the summit and I couldn’t believe I was close. One of the youngest guys from the team was heading down towards us to take my backpack. I tearfully thanked him as he continued to encourage me the whole way to the top. 

  19.08pm - Overwhelmed that I managed to make it to the top of Donard (850m) - extremely tearful!

19.08pm - Overwhelmed that I managed to make it to the top of Donard (850m) - extremely tearful!

As I approached the team I, (not very cohesively) mumbled about needing to go around the other side of the wall and be sick. As soon as I came round the edge of the wall I was bent double, retching and crying. But there was little time for rest. Darkness was only a few hours away and we had the long, steep descent from Donard and the bog of Donard to journey through. I did manage to grab a photo at the top of our last peak – a triumphant reminder of the hellish climb I’d endured.


However, my triumph was short-lived. The descent down Donard was tough, really tough. The queasiness wasn’t easing and now I was severely lacking in energy. I hadn’t eaten properly since the top of Bearnagh and had climbed the two biggest peaks since then. That, coupled with the sheer amount of walking we’d done up to that point and I was physically and mentally running on empty. By the time we’d reached the bottom I was certain I couldn’t take one more step.

  I felt so poorly that I barely remember this photo being taken!

I felt so poorly that I barely remember this photo being taken!

Our next challenge was a 5k trek along the top of the wall to cross the bog of Donard. Yet again I faced a huge test of my endurance. Walking the wall requires great mental focus and if you aren’t careful, it has an almost hypnotic effect while you tread stone after stone. Just great when you are feeling nauseated! Not. This walk seemed utterly never-ending. I focused on keeping up with the person in front of me and prayed for God’s help. At one stage I was begging for healing for my tummy as I just couldn't take it any longer. When I genuinely thought I might topple over the edge of the wall with exhaustion, the end came into sight. I could see some of the group climbing off the wall. Surely, we were nearly home now?

  This torturous journey along the top of the wall is already blocked out of my memory!

This torturous journey along the top of the wall is already blocked out of my memory!

Coming off the wall we were finally told our last route to the car park. It was going to take longer than what any of us was hoping for. Nevertheless, there was nothing else for it but to plod on. Jonny ran (yes … RAN) on to go and get his car so he could meet us at the main road. Jonny is my HERO. The plan was for him to collect the drivers and they could drive their cars round to collect everyone at the side of the road.

That final descent took around an hour. Every inch forward took everything out of me. The guys were still kindly carrying my rucksack and still I felt at any second I might pass out. I literally had NOTHING left. But as we finally approached the main road I phoned my parents and on loudspeaker they whooped and cheered as I crossed the finish line.

  21.45pm - Photo finish! It was actually almost dark here but the photo's been lightened! 

21.45pm - Photo finish! It was actually almost dark here but the photo's been lightened! 

Yes, there was a huge sense of relief at that moment, but if I’m honest I knew that my journey wasn’t over. My tummy felt not only queasy, but so sore at times, like something wasn’t agreeing with it. I knew the car ride home was going to test me to the absolute limit. 

Not 5 minutes into the drive home and I had to get Kate to pull over and let me out to retch at the side of the road. I spent the next 15/20 minutes with my head over a brown paper bag knowing the inevitable was coming … and it did. Around 5 hours after taking the energy gel, it finally came up and out of my system. 5 hours of torture was over in an instant. As soon as I was sick I felt a million times better and apologised profusely to the girls in the car for boking into the bag! I have never been so glad to get home. Duke of Ed Gold was the only other time I remember feeling so grateful to be home. 

  All my insta-stories from the day are in my highlight reel in my instagram  profile .

All my insta-stories from the day are in my highlight reel in my instagram profile.

I’m still trying to process it all 2 days afterwards. I mean ... it was BRUTAL. The toughest thing I've EVER done. We covered the ENTIRE Mourne Wall. 15 peaks! In ONE day! You can see them listed below:

How did my wee legs carry me?! Those legs are telling me NEVER to put them through something like that EVER again. Plus, I’m still getting tested in endurance … my poor legs are in absolute agony! I think I’m now on my 5th muscle soak bath and can only walk backwards down the stairs! But, seriously though - WHAT A TEAM …

Honestly, these guys were incredible. Everyone hit a low at some point during the day and everyone pushed through. Why? Because we weren’t doing it for ourselves. There were moments where I pictured some of the Reach mentees in my mind. Moments where I was metaphorically walking alongside them. Moments where I felt their pain, their hurt and their fear.  You can read why I signed up to the challenge here. Reach are doing vital work in our local schools and there is so much need for more. More mentors in more schools. More resources and training. More awareness and support. If you have already donated … THANK YOU. I am more grateful than you will ever know. Your support and encouragement (whether financially or encouragingly) was crucial in helping me get through that hellish day and it matters. It matters to those young people’s lives that are being continually transformed and renewed by the work of Reach. 

Just don't ask me to walk the Mourne Wall next time, ok?! 


PS. You can still donate here ... any amount is GREATLY appreciated. My legs would definitely appreciate a few more pounds!! 

Mummy Cooks Review

Bakes, Motherhood, Food, BloggingSteph DukeComment

I first met the lovely Siobhan Berry of Mummy Cooks at a Pregnancy & Baby Fair not long after having my first and only daughter Phoebe. We chatted about her weaning pots and recipes and I purchased a set of starter weaning pots. The set included a range of sizes of pots, perfect for sizing different portions during different stages of Phoebe's weaning journey. 

 Order yours  here

Order yours here

On my return to work, my husband and I started trialling a two-weekly grocery shop to try and ease the pressure of cooking and meal planning. We had a fixed menu of recipes to work from and two of our favourites were Mummy Cooks recipes: Coconut Chicken Curry & Spaghetti Bolognese. Both recipes are baby friendly, easy to batch cook and freeze. We regularly still eat both dishes!

 Baby friendly Coconut Chicken Curry - Phoebe enjoyed eating this from 6 months!

Baby friendly Coconut Chicken Curry - Phoebe enjoyed eating this from 6 months!

Just a few weeks ago I kindly received Siobhan's new Baby & Family Recipe Book. This is her first ever book and it's just bursting with advice and recipes for families. I love her simple philosophy: Cook for family, adapt for baby. Her belief that introducing family meals from the start encourages children to eat more adventurously is one I have found to be true. I just wish I'd had this book sooner! 


My daughter Phoebe loves to bake, so last Saturday we tried out Siobhan's Banana & Berry Muffins from the recipe book. Again, the recipe is freezer friendly and super easy to follow and make. We really enjoyed the results too!


I'd highly recommend Siobhan's book, especially for parents with small children. I've learned so much from the book already: proper food storage, following the seasonal calendar when choosing food and reading labels. I'd particularly recommend this book for those who are on, or who about to start the weaning process - Siobhan provides invaluable information to help you if you are on that journey. Please do check out her website too, there's a wealth of information, loads more recipes and really helpful advice for parents. 

* This recipe book was gifted to me as part of a collaboration with Mummy Cooks. All thoughts and opinions are my own. You can buy a copy of Siobhan's book here

The Mourne Wall Challenge

Steph DukeComment

If you know me, you’ll know that I love a wee jaunt up the Mournes and I don’t get up nearly as much as I’d like to, especially since Phoebe was born. That is about to change! In just a few short weeks I’ll hike 22 miles of mountainous terrain, covering 15 peaks as I take on the gruelling Mourne Wall Challenge. Why? Well, I’m pulling my boots on to raise money for a cause close to my heart. That cause is REACH.


Reach is an organisation that partners with local schools to mentor some of the most vulnerable young people. Their vision is to walk alongside each young person, supporting them and helping to unleash their potential. Having taught in a school where Reach provided mentoring I have seen first hand the positive impact that this organisation has on the young people they are working with. I’ve watched how young people have grown and benefited from their mentoring sessions, how they look forward to and cherish those times with their mentor. I’ve listened to them tell me about how much they needed those times out to chat and have fun away from the stresses and strains of school life.


Reach is a cause worth investing in. It’s a cause worth supporting and walking alongside. It’s a cause that is pushing and challenging me to step up those mountains and along that wall until I reach the end, because these young people deserve someone to show them that they are valued, loved and known. Some of our young people are facing circumstances that no young person should ever be facing … and they face them every single day. School can be hard enough never mind dealing with some of the stresses that some of these young people are dealing with.

They need your help. I need your help. Through this challenge Reach are raising vital funds to provide more mentors for our schools. The need is great! I’m hoping that by challenging myself in this way, you might feel challenged to help too. That might be financially, prayerfully or physically. The Mourne Wall Challenge is part of a larger campaign called ‘Go The Extra Mile.’ The vision for this campaign is to literally walk the miles that the mentees walk. You can read all about it below:

“No young person should have to walk through life difficulties alone. Our mentors draw alongside young people in emotional distress or who are struggling academically. Reach is about walking with young people so that they can be the best version of themselves.

Every day we are walking with young people, we want to #GoTheExtraMile.

We have can never fully understand what it is like to walk a day in one of these young peoples lives.

But we can walk with them.

The young people that we mentor together will take 3,780,000 steps in an average day. Lets symbolically walk with them while raising essential funds to allow Reach to continue to grow.

At Reach we believe that no young person should ever have to walk these things alone. We believe there is power in positive relationships; someone to encourage, support, champion and challenge you.

It is about going the extra mile.

At Reach we laugh. We listen. We care. We love to journey. We are in it for the long haul. We take time to pause. We whisper, "hold on, hope is not gone". We champion, we cheer on. We are not frightened by tears and silence does not scare us. We pray. We challenge for the very best, but stay at the very worst. We smile when you survive and celebrate when you thrive. We fight to see you dream.

Will you help us?

At Reach we would love you to join with us; do a sponsored challenge that helps us take all of these steps? It could be as simple as donating a few pounds.”

Can I be honest with you?

I am absolutely terrified about this challenge. The very thought of it makes me want to boke. Weather depending, it will take place on the 20th May – that’s not long to go! Your support would mean the world to me and would encourage me to keep putting one foot in front of the other despite the pain and agony. I am being realistic … I know this challenge will require me to push beyond myself. The beauty is though … it’s not about me. It’s about our young people. When I’m at the end of myself, that’s when I remember those pupils who sat in front of me, and the importance of Reach in their lives.

Follow my journey on Instagram and through the blog!