Barefoot Walk – running with the poor
[ ‘SHARE’ Sep-Oct 2015 ] FOCUS ~ Poverty Reduction
Written by: Mindy Kwan, Senior Officer (Partnership Development)
Since the launch of CEDAR Barefoot Walk in 2001, participants have altogether walked a total distance of 42 km, equivalent to the distance of a marathon. The more we expose ourselves to poverty relief the more we will discover that it is more than ‘taking off our shoes’. Rather it’s a lengthy journey that requires long-term persistence and participation.
This year is my second year of organising the CEDAR Barefoot walk event. I have pleasure to speak through my two friends who are closely connected to Nepal and those living in hardship. They will share their perspectives of this event.
Barefoot – an experience as well as an act of remembering
As a passionate ultra-marathon runner, Kilias has completed the 250 km ‘4 Deserts Race Series’ traversing the Sahara, the Gobi, the Atacama and the Last Desert in Antarctica. Less than 200 runners worldwide (only three in Hong Kong) have successfully completed all four races and Kilias is one of them. He just completed a run in Ecuador this August to raise fund for CEDAR’s post-disaster rehabilitation work in Nepal.
Nepal was the first country that Kilias travelled to. Since 2007 he has visited Nepal four times together with a missionary, serving the villagers and children living in the mountainous areas. “Upon hearing about the massive earthquake in April, I worried for those villagers I had met, and hoped that I could do something for Nepal.” Kilias continues, “My missionary friend is involved in CEDAR’s relief work in Nepal. From her, I understand how CEDAR operates in Nepal and agree with CEDAR that long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction for the community is very important. I hope through the ultra-marathon I can bring more people aware of the required relief work in Nepal, as people often forget and/or neglect. And increase in awareness can hopefully lead to long-term support.”
Kilias shares with me one heart-touching experience. “In 2009 we drove 20 hours followed by a walk of 2 hours to a remote mountain village in Nepal. Upon arrival we served the villagers by cutting their hair, cleansing their wounds and playing with the children. A girl of around six, appearing sad and lonely, watched us from afar. After a whole day of travel and service, we felt exhausted and rested on a straw mat; this girl also sat with us. We made funny faces and eventually a smile broke out on her. That smile wiped away my fatigue and I felt great contentment. To us from Hong Kong, this half day in the village might add a very tiny part to our lives, but to those children living in remote villages, this half day could be an unforgettable memory impacting on their growing up.” Kilias believes that children who have been loved and cared will themselves love and care for other people when they grow up, passing on the blessing they have received.
Running ultra-marathons challenges one’s confidence and strength. What does CEDAR Barefoot Walk mean to Kilias? “God created man to be able to walk barefooted on natural grounds. But when people build ‘concrete forests’ they need to wear shoes.” What Kilias finds ironic is affluent Hong Kong people are concerned about which pair of shoes to wear, whereas in the world of the poor, many do not have even one pair. “Barefoot Walk gives me a chance to experience how the barefooted poor live in a damaged world, and be reminded that I need to remember the needs of the poor.”
Barefoot – a learning as well as being motivated
Justin is also helping in organizing this year’s CEDAR Barefoot Walk. Justin is a medical student and was on practicum in Nepal during the April earthquake. “I was playing pool with fellow school-mates during lunch break. At first only the pool table was moving but then everything around us started to shake violently, even the restaurant’s gate seemed to be falling apart. We ran out quickly and a waiter was holding the gate opened using his body to allow everyone a chance to get out. I was deeply touched by his bravery and selflessness, caring for strangers even in desperate time.”
In fact, Justin was also present at the scene of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 with his parents. He still remembered he was strenuously fleeing with his parents to escape from the tsunami. But the Nepalese earthquake was even more distressing, “There were many aftershocks measuring 4 to 6 on Richter scale but there was nothing for me to hold onto, none of my possession was useful and I only had God to depend on.”
In a remote village of Nepal, Justin met a 90-year old granny who could neither see nor hear. Justin measured her blood pressure and her systolic blood pressure read 230. “If she was in Hong Kong she would be immediately rushed to the hospital A&E. But since she lives in a remote area and does not have money, she just stays in the village.” Yet Justin also discovered richness in poverty, “Despite that, the old lady seemed very happy, her neighbours were good to her and often shared their food with her. Immediately I realized a saying, ‘Poor and yet rich. Her eyes cannot see but her heart seems to see everything.”
Justin chose Nepal to be his practicum site so he could experience the impoverished world. So why is Justin helping out in this year’s CEDAR Barefoot Walk? “I believe the Walk provides an unique opportunity for its participants to taste what it is like to be with the poor, just as Romans 12:15 says, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.’ It is never easy to live in a country that lacks resources and at the same time susceptible to natural disasters. Poverty leads to deficiency in healthcare, education and emotional satisfaction, but the saddest of all is that people lose hope. It is my wish that through the Walk, the participants, including myself, will be motivated to bring hope to those who are suffering.”
Justin will design activities for this year’s CEDAR Barefoot Walk to allow participants to understand how medics work with limited facilities, “so the participants can know a bit more how the poor feel, and become more sensitive and compassionate about the poor’s needs and difficulties.”
Barefoot – companionship as well as persistent determination
Improving the life of poor is not an overnight matter. Yet through our sharing, serving and companionship, we can bring them hope, energize them, so they continue to have the required strength to live on. I believe this is important, and this is also the will of our Heavenly Father.
CEDAR Barefoot Walk is symbolic of our willingness to walk with the poor; the road is long and needs our persistence. This is the 15th year of CEDAR Barefoot Walk; we hope that many more people will join us in this marathon of poverty relief! This bible verse of Kilias is also my favourite: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” (Prov. 3:27) We await your participation!
CEDAR Barefoot Walk 2015 – Walking with Nepal
Date > 5th December 2015 (Saturday)
Time > 3-6 pm
Goal > Raising fund to support post-disaster community development projects in Nepal
Event > Walking barefoot, experiencing poverty, raising funds
Meeting point > United Christian College (11 Tong Yam Street, Tai Hang Tung, Shek Kip Mei, Kowloon)
Form of participation > As a group, family or individually
Application > cedarwalk.org
- FOCUS ~ Poverty Reduction> Barefoot Walk – running with the poor
- STEP INTO THE WORLD> Nepal’s Long Road of Post-disaster Rehabilitation
- JOIN HANDS JOIN HEARTS> Healing begins here
- CEDAR’S BLOGGER> Cultural self-awareness
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