Mankind really is a resilient being! Interviewing each of the #leagueofladies as they are about to embark on the expedition of a lifetime, you can’t help but be impressed that each of them has overcome a difficult time in their personal life. Not only have they overcome their own particular difficulty, but they have used that individual experience to change their lives – and all firmly believe that they have grown and are better because of and not despite the challenge. Sam Palmer is one such person.

Sam has always been what you could describe as a people person – having qualified as a nurse, Sam’s career started at King’s College Hospital where she became one of the ward sisters in the neo-natal premature baby unit. It was an emotional yet rewarding place to work but Sam had always wanted to teach and thought her career would be teaching within the NHS. Fate however presented her with an opportunity to teach outside of the NHS and after a spell in teaching in further education, Sam found herself working for St John’s Ambulance running their primary school’s first aid programme. As with many entrepreneurs, Sam saw that there was an opportunity in the market for her to set up her own business and, with just £500 to her name, she decided to take the plunge and go into business in the first aid training field with a friend of hers.

Life was good and business was ticking along when her brother, who had served and survived not only the Gulf War but also contracting legionnaire’s disease on the plane on the way home, was tragically killed aged 28 in a motorbike accident in London. Understandably Sam’s entire world was rocked to the core – to survive the danger of being at war to be killed in a motorbike accident seemed a cruel twist of fate.

Sam’s brother had just completed the London Marathon shortly before his death and so when his army regiment asked Sam if she wanted to run the following year in his memory, she didn’t hesitate and her own life took a complete change of direction.

Although Sam had done a little running previously, as she trained for the marathon, it struck her that there was nothing out there to help ‘normal’, non-sporty, athletic-type women to learn to run. From here, Sam’s ‘hobby’ running club, Sevenoaks Ladies Joggers (SLJ), was born as she formed a club to coach your ‘average Jane’ on how to run and to enjoy it. She also took an athletic coaching qualification. Sam told us that although SLJ was growing and growing, that she recognised that solely running was not necessarily the answer “[ladies] would pick up injuries and just running was not right for everyone.” She branched out and took further qualifications and now covers pilates, yoga and fitball. Her interest lies in how lifestyle choices affect people’s health. Combining coaching and education women is her driving force.

As Sam’s ‘hobby’ became more time consuming, she decided in 2017 that she would sell her first aid training company to her business partner so she could concentrate on SLJ.

Reflecting on her journey, Sam recognises that had it not been for the tragic death of her brother, it is unlikely she would be where she is today. She is grateful that she has been able to take something positive from her rollercoaster journey as she has successfully improved the lives of a lot of ladies, many of whom have gone on to take an athletic coaching qualification themselves and also gone on to improve the lives of others.

When asked what Sam is looking forward to from the forthcoming expedition, it is the simple chance of being able to listen and learn from the Malawian women and how they are able to grow their own businesses without the many advantages that first world technology affords entrepreneurs those in the UK – it’s all too easy to forget that there was life and business growth before the internet and social media! The thought on being able to take time reflect on her own journey and where she wants to take her business as she does yoga by the lake is also high on her list what she is looking forward to.

It is also striking that in common with many of the others about to embark on the expedition, that Sam recognises she will have an opportunity to learn from her fellow companions. For someone who happily acknowledges that she is good at helping and motivating others, it is perhaps surprising that she feels she isn’t so confident in her own ability to recognise and promote her own ‘can-do’ attitude. Sam has nothing to fear on this front – having transformed her life as a result of such a personal tragedy, she has already proved that she has what it takes. The ladies of Malawi will be impressed by this inspirational yet down to earth collaborative force!

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