In Africa, many people, particularly women, walk multiple miles each day just to fulfill their families’ basic needs for food and water.
Traveling many miles over many days is considered a “proper walk.” That’s the concept behind the every-other-year fundraiser created a decade ago to benefit the Makindu Children’s Program, founded by Winnie Barron of Brownsville.
The 2012 “Proper Walk” took place July 26 through Aug. 4. Barron, Brownsville residents Paul Baxter and his son Quinn, 21, and seven other walkers trekked 150.7 miles over 10 days through the northern Rift Valley, ending in the Saguta Valley along the shores of Lake Turkana.
Participants try to raise $10,000 each for the walk, and pay all their own costs for supplies, transportation and insurance so that all funds raised can go straight to the Makindu program.
So far, Barron said, they’ve made $82,000 toward their $100,000 goal for this year. Donations are still being collected and can be made online through the donations link at www.makindu.org, or mailed to the program at P.O. Box 51556, Eugene, OR 97405.
Barron founded the Makindu program in 1998, creating a center initially to provide food, medical care, education and job training to children who had been orphaned by AIDS.
Today, the center’s work has expanded to serve 1,200 children who are victims of many woes, including abuse, abandonment, disease, extreme poverty, or lack of access to any other social programs.
Side projects include working with older residents to provide clean water, health education and sustainable agriculture, but those efforts are covered by grants, Barron said. Proceeds from the Proper Walks go to education, medical care, advocacy and other services for the children of the center.
“We like local people to know the money is going straight to the kids,” she said.
This was the sixth Proper Walk since the center’s founding and the fifth for Barron herself. Unlike previous walks, in which participants battled searing temperatures, threatening tribal conflicts or political situations, and medical emergencies, this trip was largely uneventful — until Barron got back stateside.
“We had tons of ticks and scorpions on this trip. Tons,” she said. “This time my misadventure, believe it or not: One of those little tick bites got me very, very sick and ended me in the hospital when I got home, with African tick fever.”
She’s recovered just fine, however, and is planning ways to share stories and pictures with the community.
This walk, Barron said, brought the group through several small villages, where residents gawked at the pale Americans and came out in droves to gaze at their equipment.
“It was like they were watching reality TV,” she said. “‘Look at those weird tents, and what are those things they’re sitting on?’ It was really quite funny.”