Polar explorer from Hackney awarded freedom of the city of London for voluntary work

Dwayne Fields

Dwayne Fields - Credit: Archant

For most people trekking to the North Pole would be enough excitement in one lifetime, but not for Dwayne Fields.

The explorer is aiming to do a 1,150km minimum trek across the South Pole at the end of the year.

The 30-year-old from Stoke Newington became the first black man to trek the North Pole this century when he completed his challenge in 2010 and is now set to be the first to trek to both poles.

His latest expedition is promising to be a lot more gruelling – it will be a solo enterprise of more than double the distance and almost 20 degrees colder, with temperatures around -44C.

But Dwayne is not phased – for him, having survived being shot at twice when he was 24, nothing is insurmountable.

He said: “I don’t find these places frightening. I’m more concerned about failing.”

Last Wednesday he was awarded the Freedom of the City of London for his work with young people at schools and youth clubs. He and fellow explorer Ben Fogle urge youngsters to follow their dreams, to seek inspiration through exploration and embrace the outdoors.

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He said: “When somebody says they are recognising the work you do and pats you on the back it’s amazing.

“When I speak to young people, the feedback you expect to get back is negative but they are really interested and show they are hungry for this. They are happy to speak to someone who sees them in a different way and want to know how they can do what you’ve done. It’s the most humbling experience.

He himself hung out on estates as a teenager until he survived a shooting – a moment which changed his life. Rather than take revenge, he forgave his attacker. He said: “A lot of young people don’t realise they are only a yes or no away from ruining their lives. My half-brother was shot and killed in Jamaica.”

Dwayne turned his life around, applying to join Ben Fogle and James Cracknell on their expedition in 2009 but his application was late. So he raised the funds while working as a customer advisor at Barclays bank in Dalston. “I did have a lot of people support me. I love Hackney because of the community spirit,” he said.

He is taking time out from his degree in Psychology and Third World Studies at the University of East London to train every day to enable him to pull 150kg of supplies and raise the £150,000 for his trek.

Dwayne is already talking about a potential trek up Everest in 2016 and his goal is to set up a foundation encouraging young people to go into the countryside and get them interested in the outdoors.

n. To read an abridged version of Dwayne’s autobiography, visit dwayne-fields.com.