A friendship is held in the memories of the good times spent together and when those good times involve doing something for someone else, the memories will forever be stronger. Sometime in the middle of 2008, I had a call from a mate in the UK. We had been friends since the mid 1990’s – a couple of back packers on their way to Australia via India and Thailand. He was calling with news that his wife was expecting their 4th child and also that he had been given ‘a pass’ for a week. “A week with an old friend! Maybe we should head back to the beaches in Goa or take a trip up the east coast of Australia?” Instead, he sent me the details of a Himalayan trek, where a percentage of the cost went back to supporting kids living on the streets of Delhi.
That year, I had also taken part in a couple of humanitarian trips to Myanmar, following Cyclone Nargis. In May 2008, Nargis ripped through the Burmese Delta for 5 terrifying days, killing 140,000 people and leaving countless more without homes. It was the 2nd deadliest cyclone of all time, though news coverage was short lived and with the country still under military control, the flow of aid was highly restricted. On my 2nd trip I had stayed a few days with a family on the Delta. Their community had a couple of hundred children and the school building had been reduced to a rickety wooden framework, with broken planks and dangerous holes. Amazingly they were still running a morning assembly and lessons in the empty shell.
After speaking to my friend in the UK and doing a little research on the Himalayan trek, I decided it would be as easy for us form our own group with a mission. Over the next few months we pulled together a team of 10, which ended up being a cultural mix of friends from the UK, Singapore, Middle East, Africa and the Netherlands. I picked a trekking route in Northern Thailand, as I knew the area well, and each of the team was responsible for their fundraising. We ended up with $27,000; enough to rebuild the school I had visited in Myanmar.
That first team left Chiang Mai for the hills exactly 5 years ago today and it was the beginning of what was to become Footsteps for Good. I had never expected the journey to continue but since then different teams have come together each year and supported additional projects in Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. Each trip has brought with it a new experience of determination, endurance, a few aches and pains and plenty of laughter; and all have provided support and raised awareness for kids in Asia. Etched in my memory is that first trek and how a phone call with a friend became 10 people working together towards a meaningful outcome.
In 2013, I had an opportunity to get more involved with social entrepreneurship, an area I have gained some understanding of, through my experiences with Footsteps for Good. As with any business, there is a great deal of thinking, designing & planning that come with developing a social enterprise, but never under estimate the power of ‘getting on with the job’. When you apply that type of mindset, often much of the planning will take care of it self.
The next Footsteps for Good group leaves in 10 days. If you would like to take part in a future trek or offer your support for the walkers on this years trek, please contact me directly on: firstname.lastname@example.org