A walk to remember

By Jasmine Watson

1999 saw the beginning of one of Oxfam’s key fundraising events, the Oxfam Trailwalker. Almost three decades on and the event is still bringing people together for those in need.

This year’s Oxfam Trailwalker in Melbourne took place on the 7th to the 9th of April, and saw 600 people participate, a hundred down from last year. The event see’s many people brave the trying conditions and the challenging 100 km walking track in a bid to raise money for poverty.

Melbourne’s Current Oxfam Events Fundraising Manager, Anne Wemyss, shared her first experience in competing in the event a number of years ago

“I wanted to do it for a personal challenge, and also to raise money for Oxfam and help people living in poverty,” said Ms Wemyss.

“I’ve been involved with Oxfam Trailwalker for four years. As a volunteer, as a walker and a participant and also working for Oxfam.”

But this challenge no walk in the park This year’s track had participants starting at Jells park in Wheelers Hill, taking them through the Dandenong Rangers, Yarra Valley and finishing up at Wesburn. If the 100km didn’t seem daunting enough, all participants are required to complete the event in under 48 hours.

David Hughes of Cranbourne, was interested in a challenge and became involved back in 2011. Since then he has both volunteered and been a participant.

“That year (2011) was on April 1st, so it seemed appropriate to be doing a 100km for the first time,” he said.

In order to participant in the event a group of four people is required. Michael Stewart of Balwyn said he first became involved because of a friend and has been a walker since 2014.

“I gladly signed up because I wanted to spend more time with him, and with some of my other mates as well,” he said.

“It really does build that sense of comradery that I was aiming for in that first year.”

A registration fee of $130 each is compulsory and groups must raise a minimum of $1,400 to run in the event. When asked about the rules and requirements, Ms Wemyss stated while it is a great endurance race that is not the main objective.

“It’s Oxfam’s flagship fundraising event,” said Ms Wemyss, “It is a charity (Oxfam) and we aim for the majority of our money to go to fundraising efforts to support the people that need it.”

This year’s aim is to raise $2.5 million dollars for poverty, which they have yet to achieve. All money raised is gathered into Oxfam’s general fundraising pool, from there the money is then dispersed to those in need. When asked about where Oxfam’s efforts generally cater Ms Wemyss responded that there is no specific area or location.

“The funds that people raise don’t necessarily support one particular area of our work. But it just allows us to direct them to where the need is greatest.”

While they have yet to raise the desired amount, the contributions, both financial and physical, have been greatly apricated.

“It’s actually supported by more than 700 volunteers…700 people that are giving up their time through the day and through the night to support people on the trail,” said Ms Wemyss.

An event like the Oxfam Trailwalker doesn’t come easy. The teams are registered eight months, for this year’s event it was August last year, before the official day. In preparation, entrants begin preliminary walks, as part of their training, in addition to purchasing the necessary clothing and equipment.

“Preparation from there usually involves a team meeting in September, October,” said Mr Stewart, “that’s when we start organising things like support crew, people who want to come along and support us and how to raise money.”

“Training starts about six months out…we do practice walks on the actual trail itself. So we’ll do a couple of check points at a time. And you’re looking at doing 20 to 30 kms each of those practice walks.”

As daunting as it may be those that have been a part of the Oxfam Trailwalker encourage others to give it a go.

“Anyone can do it, “said Mr Hughes, “the support’s there. The fundraising for me is the hard part but it’s a good cause, it’s a great event and I would encourage anyone to give it a go.”

“If you get the right group of people, you become closer, it’s a really lovely experience and completing it does feel like a momentous achievement,” said Mr Stewart.

If walking 100km isn’t your cup of tea, there are many opportunities to still be involved with the Trailwalker.

“We have a number of volunteering positions and volunteers are invited to register online via our website,” Ms Wemyss said.

“Depending on the position that they choose there might have some online training that the need to do. Or for some of the more senior positions that are running the check points they might volunteers that have been with us for a number of years.”

With further events scheduled during this year in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane, there still opportunities for people to help. For more information go to the website Oxfam Trailwalker for more details about this year’s events and future registrations.