Expat teachers complete 2,000-km walk to raise funds for underprivileged children

By Minh Nga   February 22, 2024 | 05:55 am PT
Expat teachers complete 2,000-km walk to raise funds for underprivileged children
Jake Norris (R) and Sean Down on a 2,000 km journey to raise funds for charities for Vietnamese children. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Charity Walk: A Walk For Change's Facebook page
Two teachers from Australia and Ireland will finish a Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh City trek this Saturday after three months, during which they have raised US$35,000 to support charity foundations dedicated to children in Vietnam.

Australian Jake Norris, 37, and Irishman Sean Down, 45, started "Vietnam Charity Walk: A Walk For Change" late last year when they left Hanoi on Dec. 2 to walk 2,000 km to HCMC.

The duo decided to take a mountainous route that has likely never been attempted before.

Their ambitious initiative, sponsored by the Australian embassy as part of a commitment to fight trafficking and to mark the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, has captured the attention and support of individuals, companies, and communities around the globe.

The pair’s mission has been to raise funds to support Thanh Loc Project, which focuses on providing education, housing, food, water, and shelter to underprivileged children in Vietnam, and Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, which works to combat human trafficking, as well as to rescue and support Vietnamese street kids.

To date, the campaign has raised more than $35,000, and with still upcoming fundraising events that also receive support via gogetfunding.com/vietnam-charity-walk/.

Norris, who has lived in Hanoi for seven years and visits an orphanage every year, thought of a charity walk during the Covid-19 lockdown three years ago.

"I wanted to give back to the country and its people who have given me so much," he said, as cited by a statement from the Australian embassy.

When his original partner pulled out, Down, who has lived in Hanoi for five years, stepped in to revive the walk.

They temporarily quit their jobs as English teachers in the city.

Norris said he was motivated by the children he has met on his travels that continue to show tremendous kindness and happiness, despite the daily hardships they face.

"The challenges these children face is unimaginable, and it's our duty to make a difference," he said.

He said they have had three months of "intense highs and lows."

They struggled to find food at times, and dealt with one entire week of torrential, freezing rain, and soaring temperature over the past month.

"We've been doing 35 kilometers per day in 40 C heat. So now we're often up and out the door by 4 a.m. to avoid the heat!"

The "highs" are having "incredible interactions" and making friends with people along the road.

"Not a day has gone by that someone hasn't stopped their bike to offer food or water. We're going to miss those daily affirmations of people's kindness."

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