Churchill alumna Kirsty Ferguson (U11), tells us about her trek to Everest Base Camp to raise vital funds for Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, which aims to help to encourage everybody, especially young people, to start conversations more openly about mental health, and signpost young people to resources that could help save a life.

I am a Churchill alumna (undergraduate Biological Natural Sciences 2011-2015). On 19th October 2019, I travelled to Nepal in a team of 14 family and family friends to trek to Everest Base Camp in memory of my cousin, Cameron Grant. 

Outwardly happy, successful and fulfilled, Cameron took his own life in 2014, aged 21, after a lonely, 7-year battle with depression. He was studying Geology and loved hillwalking. My family set up a charity, The Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, to encourage everybody, especially young people, to start conversations more openly about mental health, and signpost young people to resources that could help save a life. Through this trek we aimed to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and fundraise for the charity. The charity has a website, and we also have a  fundraising page available here.  When I was studying at Churchill I began selling greetings cards in the Porters Lodge in aid of this charity, and they are still being sold there today. 

After trekking 115 km over for 11 days, we all successfully reached Everest Base Camp on 28th October at an altitude of 5364 metres. Our team included myself, my mother and father (Tamara and Alastair Ferguson), my sister and brother-in-law (Helen and Tim Davies), my aunt and uncle (Carol and Evan Grant), my aunt (Frances George), and family friends: Duncan Allen, Phil & Mary Hay-Jahans, Adrian, Julia & Isabel Clarke (Alastair, Evan, Duncan, Phil and Adrian are also Cambridge alumni (of Fitzwilliam and Magdalene), and met while studying there). 

 Over the last 3 years Cameron’s Trust has focused on several projects: 

– The Trust is now a registered Charity. The Trust’s aim is to go into communities to raise awareness of mental health issues and encourage everybody, and especially young people, to start conversations more openly about their own mental health. We aim to support the prevention of young suicide by helping to improve the visibility of available support services and signpost young people to the resources that could help to save a life.

– The main project of The Trust is Cameron’s Coasters. These are customised drink mats which we send to schools, universities, local pubs and sports clubs, and other communities for free to encourage people to get help. The aim is to put the helpline numbers most important for each community on their version of the Coaster with the aim of catching someone who is vulnerable with the right message at the right time. 

To date we have printed over 800,000 coasters for: 138 Universities and Colleges, 21 Schools, 8 Sports clubs – Ricoh Arena and Wasps Rugby, 26 Police Federations, 6 Fire Services including Bucks, 5 workplaces including Paddy Power Betfair, Ernst Young, IBM, Legal and General, 10 bars, pubs and restaurants. This includes the University of Cambridge and Churchill College.

Some of the feedback we have received from university mentors: “I just wanted to tell you that the coasters worked! A mentee opened up to me after I gave him the coaster, and he started by saying ‘Now that I know I can talk to you…” 

“The mats have arrived and they are brilliant! As a result of putting them out over just one weekend I have seen a couple of, at the moment reluctant, male students. But they have come forward and the drink mats have done what they are supposed to do! Thank you!”

More recently, we have started to produce a plastic card version of the coasters; the cards carry similar help information, but are more enduring and are the size of a credit card so can easily be put in a wallet. As with the Coasters, we customise the cards for each community that uses them.

The money we raised through our trek will be used to produce more of Cameron’s Coasters and Cards for schools, colleges, universities and any other community that can use them. 

–  More recently we launched the Cam Crisis Messenger Text Service, powered by our trusted partners Shout and Crisis Text Line.  Shout is an affiliate of Crisis Text Line® in the UK that provides free, confidential support, 24/7 via text. 

It’s the first free 24/7 texting service in the UK for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere, by texting CAM to 85258. Shout is available in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and the service aims to connect every texter to a trained volunteer promptly to provide crisis help.

In total we raised over £7000 for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust through our trek.