Preet Chandi, who this winter became the first woman of colour to trek to the South Pole, shared her story of adventure with pupils from Venturers’ Academy in south Bristol, a special school for young people with a primary diagnosis of autism.
Preet told the school’s secondary pupils that she’d decided to make the 700-mile trip to show that anyone, of any background or skin colour, could achieve anything they set their mind to: a can-do attitude that fits perfectly with the school’s motto – ‘Where everything’s possible’.
Preet said: “About three years ago I decided I’d like to go to Antarctica. When I googled it, I couldn’t see anyone who’d been there who looked like me. However, when I looked it up again a few weeks ago, I saw a photo of myself!”
Preet, 32, an army physiotherapist, told the pupils how she spent more than two years training for her trip to the Antarctic, which was challenging both physically and financially.
Polar Preet, as she has since become known, completed the ski trek in 40 days, battling temperatures of minus 50C and pulling a heavy sled. Her weight dropped from 70 to 59kg during the journey.
The pupils, who were joined by a group from the neighbouring Merchants’ Academy Primary, had many questions for Preet, including “how did your food stay fresh?”, “did you get frostbite?”, “did you see any animals?” and “were you scared?”.
In response to the question, “is winter your favourite season?” Preet described how, growing up, she hadn’t liked cold weather and always snuggled under a blanket at home. Her first experience of camping wasn’t until the age of 19.
Asked how she kept going at the toughest times, she said that she remembered Dory in the film Finding Nemo, who was determined to “just keep swimming”.
Venturers Trust Executive Lead, Trystan Williams, said: “Preet was wonderful with our students and truly gave them the sense that everything really is possible. At Venturers’ Academy we encourage our students to experience challenges – for example, three years ago we took part in a voyage around the British coast called The Wettest Classroom on Earth – but such opportunities have been limited over the past two years because of Covid. Preet’s visit was inspirational for both students and staff, reminding us all that having aspirations and goals is really important and helps us to live life to the fullest.”
David Watson, CEO of Venturers Trust, the multi-academy trust of which Venturers’ Academy and Merchants’ Academy are a part, said: “It’s so important for young people to hear about the journey involved in achieving success, showing them that determination and focus is often required to reach ambitious goals. The Trust’s motto is ‘work hard, be kind’ and by sharing her incredible experience, Preet has shown our students what it looks like to bring that motto to life.”