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Trekking across the great wall of charity

(Ali Zafar) / 17 May 2012

Naila Al Mahmood will be trekking across the Great Wall of China, partly in honour of her late son.

Gulf for Good has raised Dh280,000, which will be donated to Bethel China, a Beijing-based charity devoted to the well-being of blind orphans.

Al Mahmood, 49, is one of the 23 participants taking part in The Wild Wall Challenge, organised by the Dubai-based charity Gulf for Good, which is raising money for an orphanage in Beijing that caters to blind children.

“I was a parent of a special-needs child who passed away — he had cerebral palsy.

“And that’s partly why I would like to help these children through this charity,” Al Mahmood said.

Participants in the challenge are expected to raise Dh18,000 through sponsorships along with paying a Dh2,200 registration fee. To date, they have raised Dh280,000, which will be donated to Bethel China, a Beijing-based charity devoted to the well-being of blind orphans. They fly out to Beijing on Friday.

Once they are set on taking up the challenge, participants take part in weekly fitness training programmes that involve hiking on the beach and climbing flights of stairs.

For Al Mahmood, who has lost nearly 50kg of weight over the past three years, the challenge itself is a reward for her health-conscious accomplishment. And she is not going at it alone. Her daughter, Sara Kazim, 24, is also taking part in the challenge.

Kazim says she has been preparing for the challenge for a month now, including climbing 93-floors as a part of the exercise regimen. But it’s not the fitness alone that motivated Kazim to participate in the challenge. “The charitable aspect of this event is extremely important. We get to travel to a lot of places as tourists, but the fact this has a charitable cause directly built in it was very important,” Kazim said.

The participants will be in China from May 18 to 26 and will be trekking for six days, beginning their journey just outside of Beijing.

They will be walking anywhere from six to eight hours a day, said Patricia Anderson, head of communications for Gulf for Good.

“Some sections of the walk are very steep, almost vertical and there are times where you’re doing it on your hands and feet,” Anderson said. At night, participants will be staying in local hostels and in the homes of local families. Girish Shivanand, 37, another participant in the challenge who describes himself as a thrill seeker, has taken part in past Gulf for Good challenges — including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

While this trek satisfies Shivanand’s desire for adventure, he said it is ultimately about the children at the orphanage, who will be getting a pool through the money raised in the challenge.

“When you see the kids and see that they’ll be the beneficiaries of your work it’s really satisfying,” Shivanand said.

Future Gulf for Good Challenges include a six-day trek through Romania’s Transylvania region. For more information on future challenges, go to the website http://gulf4good.org.


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