A caring woman who was trapped in Turkey by a giant volcanic ash cloud when her grandmother died has trekked across the Sahara desert in her memory.
Clair Jones, 21, a store assistant at Trespass at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham undertook the gruelling 200km challenge in Morocco in aid of St David’s Hospice in Llandudno and raised £2,500.
Clair’s gran, Hefina Parry, died at the hospice from cancer at the age of 77.
She also has other family connections with the hospice as her uncle Colin Parry passed away there at the age of 48, as did his partner, Jen Lloyd, at the age of 51.
Clair, from Colwyn Heights, Colwyn Bay, said: “My mum was distraught because I wasn’t there when my gran died. I was meant to get back from my holiday in Turkey on the 16th of April, and she died on the 17th.”
All flights in and out of the UK and several other European countries were suspended as ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland in April 2010 caused chaos.
Up to 4,000 flights were cancelled and Clair was one of 600,000 people who were thought to have been affected.
St David’s Hospice provides care for people suffering from progressive, life-threatening illnesses in homely, relaxed atmosphere that meets the patient’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs.
It currently costs £1.9 million to run the clinical services at St David’s every year, and its patch covers all of Anglesey, Gwynedd and Conwy.
Clair added: “They all died within three years, so that was quite tough. I was really close to them and I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
“My grandma used to fuss over me all of the time with cups of tea, biscuits and sandwiches.
“I learned a lot from here. The most important thing I learned from her is to respect other people.
“My uncle treated me like a daughter. If I had really good results at school or something like that he’d treat me take me out to lunch or out to the shops.
“He would tell people how proud he was of me.”
She added: “The trek was really hard work but it was an amazing experience and definitely worth it. It was out of their world. I feel proud that I’ve done it.
“When you’re in the middle of the desert you can see literally nothing but sand. It was exactly like you see in the films with the sand dunes.
“There were about 20 people on the trip, and they were all raising money for different charities. I’d like to do another charity trek in the future.
“I wanted to do something to honour my family and to honour the people at the hospice for doing such an amazing job.”
Clair is “incredibly grateful” to St David’s hospice for the care her family members received in their last days.
She said: “That’s where they spent their last days, and they were brilliantly looked after.
“Hospitals aren’t always the best place for people coming to the end of their lives.
“At the hospice they give one on one care, and they do all sorts of therapies to make people feel better, from massages to manicures.
“Things like that can be very important to people coming to the end of their lives because they’re made to feel like they still matter. It makes them feel special and that they’re still cared about and that’s really important.
“The hospice needs money from the public to keep going.”
Hospice fundraiser Mel Cunningham, said: “I think she’s very brave, and I think it’s wonderful that Clair has trekked across the Sahara desert to raise money for the hospice, and £2,500 is a fantastic amount.
“We need £1.9 million a year to keep going, and 75 per cent of our money comes from fundraising. The rest comes from the Welsh Government and other sources.”
Eagles Meadow Manager Kevin Critchely added: “I’d like to congratulate Clair on her amazing achievement. It makes me tired just to think about it, and she’s raised a fantastic amount of money for a wonderful cause.”