Some of the more observant of you may have noticed my recent absence from the forums over the past week or so. An even smaller amount of you may've known that I've been in China for this time, walking the Great Wall in support of Oxfam; a UK-based organisation dedicated to overcoming poverty and suffering.
I've had a mind-blowing time so this post is an excuse to try and empty my head of some of the thoughts in my head right now...
15 of us (plus two folk walking in support of the Royal National Institute of the Blind and a representative from Oxfam) flew to China on the 5th of May to start our walk. Five days of gruelling 6/7 hour-long walks on the Wall loomed before us in the form of countless steps, rolling slopes and sheer cliffs. It's hard now looking back to that day; it seems so very far away.
First, the cold finances. We raised OVER £21,000! (US$42,000). This is a staggering amount of money and is enough to provide healthcare, education and agricultural support for a good-sized town. Broken down into real-world items by Oxfam, we have provided...
£6800 - builds 4 classrooms
£500 - buys 200 text books
£300 - trains 10 teachers
£250 - kits out 10 teachers
£30 - buys school dinners for 500 children
£2000 - buys 10 plots of farming land
£1280 - trains 20 farmers
£280 - buys 20 animal care kits
£400 - plants 1250 trees
£2500 - buys 250 fishing nets
£5000 - sets up 250 market stalls to sell produce and provide a living
£760 - trains 20 health workers
£100 - buys essential medicines for the whole village
Sub-total - £20,200....
...which leaves £1414.50 change to provide safe water for 1000 people and 250 Oxfam buckets to carry it in!
Grand fundraising total: £21,614.50!
…but that's not the half of it.
I can honestly say that this last week has been the most unbelievable "holiday" I've ever been on. I'm fairly well-travelled (I've been to the US, to Australia, to New Zealand, to Japan and to large swathes of Europe) but this has been a completely different experience. 14 complete strangers have become very dear friends. Physically, I've pushed myself further than I thought possible and mentally I've been humbled by the sight of the Great Wall stretching off into the distance, seemingly forever. I've had the pleasure of dealing with an amazingly friendly people and learning a small amount of their culture. I've seen the homes of emperors and peasants, been welcome in both.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this, to be honest. It's not a funny video or a pudding-based poll. I just want to let people know that even in this, frankly, horrific time you CAN make a difference and you should never, ever let anyone tell you that you can't.
Right now, I'm sat at my desk but this job seems like the most pointless exercise I can imagine. "Life-changing" is one of those phrases that gets used far too often but it's true here. I feel like a different person, more alive…
Next year I will be signing up for Oxfam's TrailWalker event, 100km in 30 hours non-stop, and I can't wait. I'd do it tomorrow if I could.
Thanks for reading.